Microsoft continues its attempt to make its online services hub more like Facebook after it integrated 20 new third-party applications into Windows Live.

According to comments made by Brian Hall, general manager of Windows Live Business Group, on Microsoft's website, an update this week to the portal gives users the ability to add 20 third-party content sites to their home pages, bringing the total number of third-party sites to 30.

By pulling in these sites, users can view activities and get status updates from contacts using those other sites directly in Windows Live, he said. Partners include Twitter, the photo-sharing site Flickr, the music social network iLike, and Yelp, which allows people to review local services in their area. Facebook also has integration with many of these third parties.

Microsoft also has added the ability for people to pull contacts from MySpace, hi5 and the Tagged social-networking site into Windows Live so they can consolidate contact and friend lists from various social-networking sites into one place, Hall said. The company already gives users the ability to do that with Facebook and LinkedIn.

Last year, Microsoft began adding more social-networking features to Windows Live, the online services hub it offers to drive online advertising revenue. Microsoft is trying to compete with Google in this market but so far has been unsuccessful.

Analysts have said the social-networking features also are a way for Microsoft to retain users, as many people are beginning to use the email services of sites like Facebook in lieu of other email applications and web-based mail from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

Indeed, a study released Wednesday found that Facebook usage from July 2008 to February 2009 climbed between 16 percent and 32 percent, while usage of Microsoft's Outlook email application remained flat. The study, conducted by Clickstream Technologies, surveyed 2,000 Windows PC users and several hundred home Mac users in the United States.

However, the study did not address if people were using Facebook email in favour of Outlook.