Review: Meebo Instant Messaging - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell | Posted February 05, 2009

Advertising

At the bottom, an advertising banner takes up about an eighth of the height of the page. We didn’t mention that Meebo was advertising supported, but how else could it work when it’s entirely free?

This is one of Meebo’s big downsides for business people. Not that the ads are terribly distracting on their own, and you can minimize the ad bar. But they may be a temptation to young employees unable to concentrate on work. Many are for music and movies, with streaming videos you can watch right within Meebo.

Of course, Meebo is not designed primarily for business use. It’s aimed at hardcore under-25 IM users ‑‑ and the advertising and customizable page-design features reflect that. You can choose, for example, to make the background of your main Meebo page a picture of one of more than 100 music groups – few of which this aged reviewer recognized.

Advanced Features

Like most IM services, Meebo lets you transfer files during a chat, a crucial feature if you’re using it as a partial replacement for e-mail. But there are some annoying restrictions.

You can transfer files to contacts on most services from Meebo, but your contacts cannot in some cases send files from their IM client to you on Meebo. File transfers, when they work, seem to be as fast or faster than with other IM services we’ve tried.

Meebo
Meebo lists all your contacts from various other IM applications on one central buddy list.
(Click for larger image)
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From within a chat window, you can also choose to use any of several plug-in applications from third-party developers. Primary among them is the TokBox-powered audio-video chat function.

It worked reasonably well in our testing of one-to-one audio-video chats, although we could not figure out how to get incoming audio to play through an attached USB headset – it insisted on playing through the laptop speakers.

There are two other marginally useful plug-in apps. One is a transliteration service that lets you type text in a chat window in languages that use non-Latin alphabets – mostly Asian languages such as Urdu and Bengali – using Latin characters. They come out the other end in the language’s actual characters. At the time of writing, however, it appeared not to be working.

The other is a live broadcasting service from Ustream.tv that lets you stream live video to a group of contacts, potentially useful for communicating with a distributed work force.

Other plug-in applications are of little interest to business users. Indeed, they may, again, be a disincentive for businesses to use Meebo as most are games, shopping or celebrity news applications.

The chat rooms feature could be useful for conducting impromptu online meetings with people who use different IM services. As with Web conferencing services, you invite participants and then everyone chats in a single chat window.

Its real purpose, though, is for members of an affinity group to share media they find on the Web. You can add media – images, video, etc. – from a Web site simply by entering its URL, which anyone in the room can then play.

The native Meebo group chat function is much more useful for online meetings, and it lets you use the TokBox and Ustream plug-ins.

Another nice feature: the Meebo Me Widget. It lets you put a Meebo chat window on any Web page that accepts Flash or JavaScript elements, including SalesForce.com and blog pages from popular blog services such as Blogger. Visitors to the site can then send you instant messages.

It takes only a few seconds to set up. We added one to a blog page, and it worked like a charm.

Bottom Line

Meebo solves specific problems with IM for business use. If you don’t have those problems – if all your contacts use the same IM service, and you never need to IM when you`re away from your own computer – you don’t really need it.

But if you do have contacts that use many different services, it’s a solution that works and offers some nice extras as well. And you simply can't beat the price.



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