Yahoo is developing a free service designed to let users stay in touch with friends and colleagues. The service will include the company's first blogging tool, according to a company executive.

Called Yahoo 360, the service will enter a restricted beta, or test, period on 29 March, when it will be available to select users invited by Yahoo to try it out. Yahoo will expand the scope of the beta testing in coming weeks. Yahoo has set up a waiting list for interested users.

Like similar offerings recently introduced by Yahoo competitors Microsoft and Lycos, Yahoo 360 provides blogging within a broader service whose main aim is to serve as a communications tool between users and acquaintances.

Similar to Microsoft's Space and Lycos' Circles, Yahoo 360 lets users do things such as publish blogs, share content and post pictures, while keeping a tight grip on who is allowed to visit the website.

Yahoo 360 has also been designed to let users consolidate a variety of existing Yahoo services and content in one place, with the goal of increasing users' interaction, said Paul Brody, the company's director of community products. "It's about integrating all the great resources across the Yahoo network into this service to deepen the users' engagement," he said.