Microsoft is entering the social networking market currently led by News Corporation's MySpace.com and Friendster with its own entry, Wallop.

The company is being spun out from Microsoft IP Ventures, which was formed last year in 2003 and expanded last year to make Microsoft technologies available to appropriate startups for licensing. Both Microsoft and Cupertino will provide funding for Wallop but did not specify how much, Microsoft said.

Microsoft claimed the site, due to launch later this year, will offer users "an entirely new way… to express their individuality online," but did not explain further.

In the process of developing products and services, companies occasionally create technologies that are not central to their core offerings, or that they are willing to share with others. Such technologies may then be licensed by outside parties to generate additional revenue for the company.

The IP Ventures program seeks to connect entrepreneurs and venture capitalists with technology, to form individual companies that will utilise the licensed technology.