Meebo: Chat rooms are so 1998

I’m having some trouble getting excited about the announcement that Meebo Rooms can now be easily embedded into websites and blog pages (you could embed them before, apparently, but it wasn’t easy). I get the fact that Meebo.com makes it easy to chat, and I know that its Web-based IM service is hugely popular — particularly with people who have instant messaging blocked at work or school, as many of us do.

But the whole “embedded chat room” thing just doesn’t work for me. Maybe it’s because there have been — and are — dozens of companies doing pretty much the same thing, including 3bubbles.com (remember them?), Gabbly, Mobber and a whack of others with equally ridiculous and forgettable names. Heck, my friend Brent Ashley whipped up an Ajax chat room widget back in 2002 called BlogChat. It’s not technically that hard (no offense, Brent), so what is compelling about it?

I guess like Pete Cashmore, who wrote about 3bubbles when it came out, I just don’t get the whole dedicated chat room idea. Most of the chat room apps I’ve tried on various sites (including mine) wind up filled with idiots, or are ghost towns where there hasn’t been a chat message for weeks, and the last one was someone typing “Hi, is anyone here?” I could see it for a dedicated situation such as a conference or some other compelling event, but how many of those could there be?

12 thoughts on “Meebo: Chat rooms are so 1998

  1. You're right – it's never been that hard, and it's practically trivial these days with advanced Ajax toolkits.

    I first built it as a proof of concept with less than 100 lines of code on client and server and then expanded it into a free service that's been running virtually unchanged since 2002 – Tim Aiello continues to host it at http://www.blogchat.com. While there are a few long-time users, most people try it out and tire of it after a few days.

    There are companies who have extended the idea to provide live product support, and I've used that on vendor sites a few times to good effect. I have never seen the concept gain any real traction outside of that realm, however.

    Providing an embedded chat room for blogs, while a neat gimmick, has no supportable business model that I've been able to discover. It might provide minimal incremental value to a hosted blogging service, but nobody's going to pay for it when there are so many free and simple alternatives whose features are “good enough” (such as a shoutbox, one of many examples).

    • Yeah, I agree Brent. I just don't see it having any kind of compelling
      advantage — or a great business model, for that matter, even if Meebo does
      do distributed advertising. It makes sense for live support and that kind
      of thing, as you mentioned, but other than that it's a pretty forgettable
      feature, IMHO.

    • Actually, I was going to make that point as well, Mark — but I thought the
      post was getting too long as it was. I think you're right though, it kind
      of is — when it isn't down, that is 🙂

  2. Everything old is new again. Clothes, toys, and now the web.

    The primary market for the embedded chat rooms are the Lifecasters that want to “nurture” a community for themselves right on their websites.

  3. Pingback: Notes from a Teacher: Mark on Media » Thursday squibs

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