Meebo Messenger, Meebo Me discontinued July 11, 2012

We were expecting this after it was announced Google bought over Meebo, but here's final confirmation.

Of interest to librarians, Meebo Messenger, Meebo Me, Meebo Mobile Apps will be shutting down July 11th, 2012. All embeded widgets will stop working and you can download all chat logs at https://www.meebo.com/chatlog-download by July 11, 2012.

For more details see http://www.meebo.com/support/article/175/

Meebo Bar will continue but I don't think many libraries use it. Meebo Me widgets of course are used by many libraries to provide IM reference support.

Other free chat widget alternatives exist including AIM, Chatango, Plugoo , Gtalk etc. 

EDIT : Others I see mentioned include Zoho ChatChatWing,  Digsby  Spark 

Depending on your needs you could get away with free accounts on Zopim, Olark etc though you probably will need to pay if you use the service heavily.

Library specific IM reference services exist of course include Libraryh3lp , OCLC's QuestionPoint and SpringShare who offer the popular LibGuides is readying LibChat.

Or perhaps in the age of Skype, Google Hangouts, SMS ref, Twitter & Social Media, IM reference is no longer so necessary?

Are you impacted by the closure of Meebo? Let us know in the comments.

Aaron Tay

 

 

 

Comments

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Yes!

Our library will have to find an alternative, and I would certainly prefer a free one - so thanks for this. We have meebo widgets all over our library site and will need to find something that is similar enough that students won't notice the difference because usually when they resort to chat they're in a hurry and want something without needing to know anything other than where to post their question.

So a great big THANK YOU for these suggestions.

Meebo alts

"Or perhaps in the age of Skype, Google Hangouts, SMS ref, Twitter & Social Media, IM reference is no longer so necessary?"

These won't cut it, in my opinion, because online reference works best when fully embedded in user workflows. We embed Olark widgets everywhere: web site, libguides, databases, proxy login page, etc., wherever users might get stuck. Had used Meebo as the console for the librarians staffing the chat, feeding in the Olark traffic and other IM accounts, now will need a different aggregator.

"online reference works best

"online reference works best when fully embedded in user workflows"

- interesting idea - have there been any studies to back this up?

I know the big oclc report that came out last year after years of research, seeking synchronicity, for example, said chat reference was most successful when the user is already familiar with chat, when the service is convenient, and when the results are accurate. But I'll bet they didn't look at "workflow", except insofar as having chat in your workflow is "convenient".

I'm surprised by the short

I'm surprised by the short timeframe - Google normally give more notice when shutting down services.

IM reference

""Or perhaps in the age of Skype, Google Hangouts, SMS ref, Twitter & Social Media, IM reference is no longer so necessary?"

These won't cut it, in my opinion, because online reference works best when fully embedded in user workflows. "

Yes, we do that too, was trying to be provocative. :)

That said I saw a report from two fair sized academic library here state that they tried chat and there was no demand for it, so perhaps it's not all together as absurd as it appears.

Aaron

Flip side

>>That said I saw a report from two fair sized academic library here state that they tried chat and there was no demand for it,

I have a friend that works at a medium sized liberal arts college. The students use IM for library questions all the time. Was visiting my friend and they were working an evening shift and a question came in across the IM. Question required print resources. Student came into the library from his dorm. Student was at the library within ten minutes of when they started the IM.

Spoke to my friend later about the success/failure of IM and they said that it was a success and they received several legit questions a day via IM.

chat in Academic Libraries

We have a very robust use of chat at my two year college, but my wife is at a 4 year college and their chat is used infrequently. It might be the different ways we monitor it (generally one of our three libraries is scheduled to monitor it). I usually see that 3-5 people are logged in at a time on the librarian side. If the person scheduled is called away to help a patron then one of the others who are logged in will answer it. This really speeds up our response time.
I don't believe the 4 year college watches it this close. My wife says that most of the questions are students fooling around. The other option is the grad student or faculty who think it is email reference and will submit a request for a bibliography on what ever topic they are interested in. They expect it to pop out of their computer as if by magic. Oh Well!!!

Complain to Google

Is anyone complaining to Google--at least for a reasonable timeline. They clearly don't understand the impact this will have on libraries. The are also being hypocrites. Check out the following:
http://investor.google.com/corporate/code-of-conduct.html

Freeloading

My library uses Meebo. We used it because it was free. We were freeloading off of Meebo. Google buys them and dumps the freeloaders. If we were paying for the service we might have a right to complain. We were giving Meebo nothing and now they (and Google) are giving us nothing.

I like Zopim's attitude

I like Zopim's attitude toward freeloaders:

"We promise to always maintain a forever free 'Lite' package for start-ups. When we first started Zopim, we used many such free services to grow our company. Now that we've grown, It's only fair that we return this favor and pay it forward to other start-ups. Of course this package will be limited. After all, once you use Zopim past a certain limit, you're unlikely to be a start-up any more" --http://wiki.zopim.com/doku.php?id=public:general#is_zopim_free

Our library is tiny and specialized; we have only received a few chats a month using Meebo Me, but have gotten a very positive response from patrons just for having the option available. We might find that this forced shopping around may lead us to choosing a service with an even better product (for free)... and who knows, that could lead to increased use that would justify an annual fee.
^kb

Complaining to Google

If one can find an email to complain to I would do so. The only Google presence at the ALA Conference this week is Google maps and they were very adament in their inability to help or provide an address to whom I could speak or write.

Open letter

Write an open letter to Google and post it on the web. Google is unlikely to read it but they were also unlikely to read that email you were going to send.

On the flip side if you letter is well written and you can get people using social media to pass it around it might have some impact.

Personally I don't think libraries have much right to complain. They were not paying for the service and it went away.

Pingbox

Does anyone use Pingbox from Yahoo!? Has anyone looked at it as a possible replacement for the Meebo widget?

http://messenger.yahoo.com/pingbox

Pingbox visibility to non-Yahoo users

In many browsers Pingbox requires a Yahoo! cookie to load on the webpage, so unless the browser in use has been to a Yahoo! page, the user will not see the chat box. We did not notice this in initial testing since we were in a hurry to implement after Meebo shut down and weren't as thorough in testing browser compatibility on computers outside of the library.

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=577980

Also, I like the look of Pingbox, but definitely not Yahoo! Messenger.

SMS

We have been using Meebo for sometime now for our IM reference and have it embedded in widgets everywhere. We were just beginning to participate in NCKnows - cooperative IM reference on the state level, but I don't think this can substitute for local IM - a lot of which isn't reference but account questions and such that can only be handled by someone locally and not someone halfway across the state. I am hoping we will pick up an alternative, as I hate to see people disenfranchised from communications. I want to maintain the ability for patrons to contact us via whatever chat program they use (I love aggregation) - and I am also concerned about maintaining our ability to provide SMS service through chat. We've been doing this using Google Voice, which forwards SMS to Google Talk and then into Meebo. I'm not sure how we will continue this once we lose Meebo, but I am hoping we can.

It's still very relevant!

We have chat boxes - with links to open the chat in new windows - scattered throughout our databases and LibGuides. We get 10 questions a day on average during the academic year - often many more!

It's easy to maintain on our end, too. It automatically launches when we start our reference desk computers - the librarian doesn't need to remember to log in somewhere. Plus we can keep transcripts which are stripped of identifying information for quality assurance.

None of the other things mentioned is as simple for both librarian and end-user.

meebo download

Hi
I've just downloaded our chat logs from Meebo.

The format is not very helpful. One folder per chat, and many chats seem to be split over multiple files. The files are in html, which is fine for looking at, but not very helpful for merging or doing anything with them. Would have preferred a CSV file!

Chris Keene

Testing Free Alternatives to Meebo Me and Messenger

Based on my initial testing of the free versions of the products mentioned in the article, I'm listing some pros and cons that I've encountered so far. Please let me know if your experience has been different! During this initial testing no attempt was made to edit the code used to embed the widget into the test pages.

We're only looking at products that provide a widget that we can embed in our website so a visitor can chat with us without registering for an IM account or downloading anything. We are only looking at products that provide one-on-one private chat; we're not interested in having a "community chatbox" where visitors' questions are public (so that rules out Chatwing, as pretty as it is).

Chatango Mini
PRO:
~ Simple design.
~ We could customize colors and size of chatbox widget (box background, names, other text) to integrate it within our website.
~ Staff with Windows OS can download "MessageCatcher" (165KB, "no spyware" according to the website) and this allows changing Available/Away/Offline status and monitoring messages without logging into and staying on the Chatango website (a quick access icon is added to the task tray, much like Google Talk).

CON:
~ Must use another service to monitor GoogleTalk, AIM, Yahoo, and other IM accounts.
~ The blinking and pop-up advertisements on the registration page immediately gave me a negative impression about the product (but I registered anyway because this may be an unfair reason to not try a free product).
~ The dashboard for monitoring messages from the Chatango website includes a prominent "Meet People" list of other Chatango users: mostly 13-25 youngsters, some with blinking avatars and such. This doesn't bode well: I'm expecting spam. (I did search and found about 4 libraries using the service, so I know I should reserve judgment and perhaps ask these libraries about their experience.)
~ The "MessageCatcher" is only available for Windows, but FT staff here use Macs. I'd have to be logged into the website to monitor chat.

Plugoo (Beta)
PRO:
~ You choose which of your IM accounts you want to use to receive messages: AIM, MSN Messenger, Google Talk, Jabber, or ICQ IM (rather than having a separate interface to monitor chats from the widget).
~ You can specify to disable messages if you are offline.
~ If you don't want to disable messages while you are offline, you can specify that messages received while you are offline are forwarded to your e-mail instead.
~ Chatbox default skin is a sleek shiny black; a simpler skin is available that allows some customization of color.
~ Can customize Available, Away, and Offline greeting messages.
~ Visitor can detach the chatbox and keep browsing web pages.
~ Upgrading to Basic or Pro accounts for additional features is relatively cheap (if price is US$, basic=6.99 or pro=9.99 per month).

CON:
~ In Beta testing, so not sure what to expect for future.
~ Free account only allows 1 chat at a time.
~ Loading of the widget is preceded by an advertisement (applies to free account only).
~ Loading of the widget during this initial testing period has been unreliable: average so far is 30 seconds to load and sometimes the widget doesn't load at all

Zoho Chat (Beta)
PRO:
~ Very similar to Meebo Me (public side) and Meebo Messenger (staff side).
~ Can monitor AIM, Google Talk, and other IM accounts all in the same interface.
~ Allows multiple concurrent chats at a time.
~ Different staff members can have their own Zoho account with their name and share responsibility for taking chats (Live Support) or you can just use the one library account (Live Chat).
~ Company seems well established, has several products, and seems to be adding new features to products such as iPhone and Android apps
~ Chat product is in Beta testing, so potential for bugs and other Cons to be worked out is high.

CON:
~ Chat product is in Beta testing, so not sure what to expect for future
~ On the visitor side, the chatbox widget does not refresh staff status in real time—Online/Away/Offline status is only set when the page first loads.
~ The chatbox is grayed out until the visitors types their name; at first glance it may appear that we are offline or that the box is not functioning.
~ The chatbox widget has been sluggish loading on website (but only a delay of a few seconds).
~ Visitor must stay on webpage to continue chat (no ability to detach chatbox)

ZOPIM
PRO:
~ Widget is discrete so it can be placed on every page of our website without affecting current design.
~ The widget remains visible as you scroll up and down a page.
~ Option to have a "bubble" that points to the new service and makes the chat box location more obvious.
~ Theoretically allows chat to continue even if customer moves to a different page within your website.
~ Option to customize Online/Away/Offline greeting messages/instructions.
~ Can create shortcuts for frequently used phrases.
~ Option to require certain information (name, e-mail, or question) before chat begins.
~ Proactive chats possible.
~ Lots of user description information (IP, what page they are on, etc) and analytics.
~ If needs increase, the paid tiers start cheaper than some other companies' options.
~ Can set Zopim to forward messages to your preferred IM, if you don't want to keep their webpage open on your browser.
~ They promise to always offer a free tier as an option

CON:
~ Free version only allows 2 concurrent chats at a time.
~ I've experienced many connection drops in this initial testing period... every time I've been logged in, actually.
~ Staff interface seems tricky for keeping up with current chats, especially if the connection drops and the visitor returns to continue chat... you have to pay attention to the IP of the visitor but you don't know that the connection was dropped if you are waiting for a response--only if you try sending a response.
~ Can't monitor other IM accounts within the ZopIM interface (but can set Zopim to forward messages to your preferred IM; they say GoogleTalk is most reliable).

And the Winner Is???

Have you found which solution you are going with?

Tentative winning combination

We have decided not to go with any of these as the widget replacement for Meebo Me. We decided not to go with the Zoho Chat box because the initial "grayed out" look of it when there is not an active chat makes a casual browser glance and assume we are offline. Instead we are using PingBox (Yahoo! Messenger widget) as our chatbox widget.

We are using imo.im to monitor messages from it and our other IM services (AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger), as the replacement for Meebo Messenger. We tried to use PingBox with Zoho Chat, but found out that the messages we sent back from Zoho never reached the person who was using PingBox, even though everything else looked functional.

I really like the design of PingBox; the one disadvantage I found is that it does not "ding" the web visitor when you reply to their question like the Meebo Me widget did. Ideally, I wish it would allow the visitor to pop-out the widget.

I liked the look of ZopIM best, but we just couldn't take the chance with the hiccups we kept seeing in the connection the kept making the chat drop in the middle of a session.

You missed the best one RUMBLETALK

RumbleTalk is a pure HTML5 chat
with design abilities like no other

Google is a mass murderer, along with ICanHazCheezBurger.com.

Google is a mass murderer, along with ICanHazCheezBurger.com.

:-(

I cried when they took Demotivator, Hawtness and the Gaming site.

I am weeping for Meebo!

Rest in Peace.

Google shall do that in Pieces.

Ra.

Meebo's suggestions

Meebo has a few alternatives suggested for each of the services that they are dropping. http://www.meebo.com/support/article/175/

RumbleTalk

Have any of you tried RumbleTalk? I'm interested to know of library experiences.

RumbleTalk

It appears that RumbleTalk only has group chat applications, so it was not appropriate for us. We were only interested in private one-on-one chats for answering reference questions.

Lime Talk

What about Lime Talk (http://www.limetalk.com/)? It has a good free version with only few limitations and even the paid version is quite cheap. It worked good for me!

Mosio for Libraries (aka Mosio's Text a Librarian)

Hi!

I want to throw another one in: Mosio for Libraries (formerly Mosio's Text a Librarian) launched chat and now has web chat, email and text messaging all in the same dashboard.

Thank you!

Tessa

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