Angela Hamilton broke the story for me. Late Sunday night, she tweeted mysteriously that Meebo is “going away.”
Sure enough, I investigated on Monday morning and, following an acquisition by Google, four of five Meebo products are being discontinued effective July 11th.
Here at Brock, a number of liaison librarians use the handy little Meebo Messenger chat widget in their research guides (and elsewhere?) to offer virtual reference for their subject areas. For example, I’ve got that little guy on the left on all of my LibGuides pages.
Keen E-Learning Librarian that I am, I promised my colleagues I would come up with a short-list of alternatives. This service is pretty important for some of our librarians, especially those who support substantial distance education populations.
I should say though, our situation is not as dire as other libraries who use Meebo for their entire virtual reference service. Fortunately, we’ve got Crafty Syntax Live Help in place for that. (Be warned: if you click on that link, the creepy eyes dude may haunt your dreams.)
I got cocky. I’m coming up short. Can anyone out there help me out?
Here’s what we’re looking for, in order of priority:
- offers an easy-to-embed chat widget, ideally doesn’t open a new window for chat
- doesn’t require a sign-in or account for the user/ student
- some sense of being a reliable or stable service (am I deluding myself with this one?)
- ideally web-based client for librarians, but desktop is doable
I haven’t yet found anything that meets this criteria. There are a few sites and blog posts out there on alternatives to Meebo, but few of them offer widgets and many of them require the user to have a particular account (e.g. Yahoo, MSN, AIM) & require the chatters to have ‘added’ or ‘friend-ed’ each other. Blarg.
I’ll share my best suggestions so far:
WARNING (Jan 8/ 2013): **Pingbox was discontinued by Yahoo in December 2012**
This actually looks promising, even though I don’t love that it’s Yahoo (I’d have to create a personal Yahoo account, as I’m sure others would).
It meets all criteria really, except that I can’t exactly make it work with the web version of Yahoo Messenger: it never seems to recognize when I’m online & available.
I quickly downloaded Yahoo Messenger for Mac on my laptop (could never do that on my work machine of course!) & it worked perfectly! So, we’d have to ask Systems to put Yahoo Messenger 9.0 on our desktops for this one to work.
I don’t know much about Digsby & have never used it, but it seems to have positive reviews. I couldn’t experiment with it on my laptop because they don’t have mac or linux versions. I’ve submitted a ticket to get it on my desktop (sigh) — I’ll update when I know more. [enter curses about the hampering of innovation here]
It appears to offer a sweet little widget and that Digsby kid is cute (complete opposite of the Crafty Syntax creep).
They were bought out by Tagged (?) this spring, but all communication suggests that the service will continue to be supported.
So yeah, that’s all I’ve got.
Suggestions, feedback, “oh my god, don’t pick X — it’s the worst!” — all welcome.