Friday, October 26, 2007

Integrate different IMs into one Web UI

I have been looking for a way to integrate all my instant messengers (IMs) into one single interface for a long time. I am a heavy user of GTalk, Yahoo Messenger and MSN. So every time I boot my machine, I have to start each of these 3 applications one by one and log on to each service separately. Apart from being time consuming, it is annoying too. Also I have to keep track of which one of friends are in what service. There is also the problem of having to carry around installers of different clients in case the PC that I would work in does not have them installed.

What I wanted was an integrated solution for all my IM needs. So when I found out about the site Meebo which claim to do just this, I decided to give them a try. I was pretty apprehensive about what they could actually offer as I have been disappointed often by these integration services.

Meebo is such a website that integrates Yahoo Messenger, GTalk and MSN into one neat web interface. There is no need to install anything, so it is portable in the truest sense. It officially supports IE, Firefox and Safari so browsers are also not a problem. It enables me to chat with 3 of my friends in 3 different IM services all at once in a single web UI. It uses a Flash interface and even provides a gadget that can be placed in places like blogs and personal websites and will allow visitors to directly communicate with the author.

However like every integration service, Meebo too has its quirks. No audio or video chatting supported till now for obvious reasons. File sharing is also a bit tricky. I am also not sure whether they support all the features that the desktop clients can offer. But for pure IM, its good. I loved the gadget too and plan to post it on my blog in one of these days.

Of course there are issues of speed; i.e. the time lag between the sender sending a message and the receiver receiving it. How much time it takes for a contact to show up as live once somebody has signed in his service of choice. Most importantly are these factors same for all the 4 supported services. I am not equipped enough to carry out these tests accurately, but I will definitely post some information here, if the local tests throw some unexpected results.

Some more search on this topic threw up KoolIM as another site offering similar features. Although it is impressive, Meebo outweighs it through the sheer number of features.

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