help! replacements for meebo?

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.

meebo-widget

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:

  • free!
  • 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:

yahoo-pingbox1Yahoo Messenger Pingbox

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.

digsby-widgetDigsby

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.

I got excited about a Google Talkback Badge, but have since learned that it’s no longer supported by those folks at Google? Darn.

Suggestions, feedback, “oh my god, don’t pick X — it’s the worst!” — all welcome.

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Hello – we’re looking at Meebo replacements in our library, and are investigating Zoho Chat, Chatango, Digsby and Trillian. Hope you find something good!

Thanks Emily!
I also just learned that the Springshare folks (makers of LibGuides) will be offering LibChat in early July. It sounds like it will be a part of the LibAnswers package, which we don’t have at Brock ($$). But hey, might rescue some other folks?
http://support.springshare.com/2012/06/12/meebo-going-away-libchat-coming-your-way-see-it-at-ala/

I’ve run into all the same issues. We identified a list of desired features that we had with Meebo and wanted to keep: web interface, ability to pull in other IM accounts, widget for our staff contact pages, sound and visual notifications when we’re messaged, must work with Windows and Macs, and should have an Android app.

I find web options that pull in other services… and don’t have a widget. Or I find services that require a client… which have a widget. That Google had dropped support for their chatback widget, and Yahoo’s widget only works with the client…. too disappointing for words! We finally looked at Zoho Chat’s widget today and found it rather lacking. Doesn’t show the user’s status until *after* someone tries to message through the widget— then only reports whether they are online or offline —- no shades of gray ( like “I’m at lunch”) as far as I can tell.

Ack! I miss Meebo already!

Interesting update… it would appear that the Yahoo Pingbox may work after all. I set the Pingbox up yesterday. When I tried it using my Yahoo account through imo.im and through Yahoo mail’s chat interface, the widget showed me as offline. That is still true today. However, when I use my Yahoo account through Trillian (web interface), the Yahoo Pingbox shows me as online and works properly.

Go figure.

Thank you for the comments, Kerri! Thanks for letting me know that about Trillian. It appears to me that Yahoo Pingbox is the option with the closest functionality to Meebo, despite the need to download their software. That’s what I’m gonna recommend to my colleagues. Hope you’re able to make it work for you too?

Although in the end, it turns out that many of the librarians here found their chat widgets weren’t generating a whole lot of traffic. So, some will end up just deleting the Meebo widget and not replacing it.

We did eventually get the Yahoo pingbox going without using the actual Yahoo client (I don’t know what the problem was initially). It looks like we may be opting for imo.im as a Meebo replacement (web interface, group chat, audio notifications with desktop notifications in Chrome, ability to integrate other IM services, chat logs if desired, Android app, and we can sign in with our existing Google Apps accounts so we don’t need to create additional accounts for the service).

Most of us also don’t get much chat traffic from our Meebo widgets, so some of us may just drop the widget. There are a few folks who will probably sign up for a Yahoo account, pull it into imo.im, and opt for a Yahoo pingbox (clunky, but workable).

I couldn’t believe how bad the other services’ widgets are (Zoho Chat widget doesn’t indicate if a user is online or offline until after you try to message them, MSN chat box requires you to answer a captcha before you can message—ugh!). I had always assumed that there were other services out there doing everything that Meebo was doing. Not so!

Good luck with your transition!

Thanks for the information, Kerri. In addition to your requirements, full-time staff here have Macs but PT staff have PCs so if we have download a client to our computers, it must be compatible with both systems.

In addition to the other problems you mention about the Zoho widget, I think the fact that it is grayed out until the visitor enters their name–causing you to have to look closely to determine if staff is online or not–makes it unlikely that visitors would ever use it. It would look like we always have a disabled tool on our website.

I like the PingBox widget even better than Meebo, but I hate trying to navigate the Yahoo website and do not want to have to monitor chats using Yahoo. To get around that I though we’d try the Zoho Chat interface to monitor messages because I do like that side of Zoho (it feels almost the same as Meebo Messenger). Everything looked like it was working great, but then we found that although we could receive messages from PingBox in Zoho, when staff answered from Zoho, the PingBox user never received the answer messages. (!!!)

Have you had any such problems with using imo.im with PingBox?

I’ve signed up and tested so many services already that I’m ready to scream. I haven’t tried imo.im yet.

Thanks!

Wow, what a mess.

I prefer the look & behaviour of Yahoo PingBox over Zoho Chat. Though Kevyn, I too want to avoid dealing with the Yahoo website & web messenger interface (if you can even call it that). Several librarians here have gone for Zoho Chat — I’d expect mostly for the simplicity of getting Zoho Chat off the ground.

Thank you for sharing all the information on your experiments here! I too feel like I’ve tried so many flippin’ services…

Quick note to add that imo.im will NOT let me log in with my yahoo account! I tried a few different options. It keeps telling me that the username/ password combination is wrong. Could it be Chrome?

Anyway, I set up a http://www.trillian.im/ account and pulled the Yahoo account in there & it works like a charm. Is it worth setting up Yahoo & Trillian accounts? I’m not sure. But there it is — it works.

Hi, just wanted to say THANK YOU x 10000 for posting this. I have already spent the entire work day trying to find a good widget and they have all failed to replace meebo. Thank you so much for writing up this informative and helpful post :)

i got imo.im to work for with my yahoo account – yipee! it’s a really nice interface & i like the desktop notifications. a few tests suggest that messaging works fine at both the PingBox and imo.im end of things. Thank you to Kerri for suggesting this!

@Kevyn– we have a couple of Macs here, too, so that was a factor in our decision. We haven’t noticed any problems with the Yahoo pingbox in combination with imo, but none of us are getting heavy-duty widget traffic either.

We’re mostly using chat within the office. A few of us didn’t want to lose the widgets that enable visitors to our website to contact us. Imo was nice because we could all sign in with our existing Google accounts and those who wanted widgets could integrate the Yahoo pingbox. The desktop notifications in Chrome are handy, the ability to group buddies is slick, and personally, I prefer the imo interface to chatting from within Gmail (though some of our staff is opting to do that instead of using imo).

Our member libraries that are using chat for reference ended up opting for LibraryH3lp through a pilot program that our library system is running. For reference work, LibraryH3lp has some nice features.

I did a quick blog post about all of this on our system’s tech blog http://scls.typepad.com/techbits/2012/07/imoim.html

If I had been more on-the-ball, I would have also posted the documentation that we ended up writing up! Glad to hear that everyone is figuring out solutions… :)

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