One of the drawbacks of traditional instant messenger services is that you have to redownload your client of choice should you decide to use a different computer or upgrade your notebook. Meebo eschews the traditional instant messenger pattern of downloading a client to your hard drive, installing it, and then chatting it up with buddies, by enabling online gabbers to communicate with others through a Web browser. Even better, it consolidates several of the Web’s most popular IM services, while serving up a heaping dose of multimedia functionality not seen in competing multi-client instant messengers.
No Downloads? No Problem
As Meebo works within Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari and requires no downloads, it is fully functional within the Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows environments; you simply create an account and input the usernames and passwords for your preferred instant messaging clients. The service is compatible with the most popular services (AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN Messenger, or Yahoo), but lacks the wide interoperability of Adium, so Mac users may want to opt for that service if they wish to use more obscure IM clients such as Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, and Lotus Sametime. As with other multi-client IM services, you can customize Meebo’s look with different color schemes. The one drawback to a browser-based client is that if you close out of your browser, you’ll terminate the chat session, a problem also inherent with eBuddy,
Rich Chat Options
Meebo let us chat with friends within user-created rooms we configured so that anyone (or just the administrator) could add media. Rooms differ from normal chat windows by supporting enhanced multimedia functionality. For example, posting a YouTube link within a normal chat window displays only the link; pasting the same URL in a room displays a thumbnail of the clip and a Play Now button, which when clicked by others in the room, played the clip in the right portion of the window (when we posted a link to a photo, clicking it loaded the image right in the window, too). Rooms can be set to be public or private, and you can search for themed rooms within the browser, such as a room dedicated to the Apple iPhone 3G.
Web site owners can even add Meebo code to their pages so that they can communicate with visitors (the same can be done with standard chat windows using Meebo Widgets). We enjoyed solid audio and video while engaged in Web chats with friends. Meebo has a mobile version for the iPhone and iPod touch for communicating with contacts while on the go via text only.
Unlike other free multi-client instant messengers, Meebo hits users with very blatant advertising that may be a deal breaker for some. For example, one morning when we signed into the service, Meebo had background wallpaper of WALL-E; on the left-hand side of the browser was a small advertisement for The Street Dogs’ new album; across the bottom of the screen was an ad for the Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures video game. Although we could remove the WALL-E wallpaper (unfortunately, we couldn’t add our own), there was no way to close out the other ads.
Meebo is an excellent tool for staying in touch with contacts. It may lack Adium’s laundry list of compatible services and Digsby’s e-mail features, but multimedia mavens who live in their browsers will love this service.