One of the best choices for online telephony for Mac just got better. The latest Skype update pushes the program to version 2.6, adding a call transfer feature and some new chat options so you can stay in touch with friends and family around the world. Skype has always been one of my favorite apps for its familiar chat-like interface and the ability to talk to users around the world for free (provided they're also using Skype). For a little extra money, you can sign up with Skype and make calls to anyone in the world (including land … Read more
Meebo, which makes a multinetwork IM Web service, is launching a chat-room service called Rooms tonight. Like the company's other embeddable component, MeeboMe (review), it's simple to embed a Rooms viewer in a blog post or Web page. But Rooms is a full-on, multiparty chat room, which makes it a lot more interesting. MeeboMe, in contrast, allows only one-to-one communication between a Web site visitor and the Meebo user who created it--useful, but not as fun.
I've embedded a Rooms widget further down in this post. As you can see, there's more to it than just chat. Rooms makes it easy for users to share media and Web sites. All you have to do to embed a YouTube video or a Flickr photo (or media from Metacafe, Google Video, PhotoBucket, or MySpace) is paste the URL into the chat window, then other users will be able to play media directly, without leaving the chat session.
Room owners can make their forums open to everyone or by invitation only, and they can separately lock down the posting of media and links if they want (I didn't, so please keep your links clean). The media feature of Meebo Rooms reminds me of Kyte.tv (review) and of YouTube's Active Sharing experiment.
Meebo Rooms is not the only embeddable group chat. We've covered several competing products: Weezu, Me.dium, Dai.sy, Chatsum, Yakalike, Planet Minibox, Yackpack, Yaplet, and Zpeech, for example. Meebo Rooms does take advantage of Meebo's slick, Web-based instant message service, though. You can easily invite people into a room by just dragging their name from your buddy list into the room. But Meebo doesn't force the chat/IM integration on you: If you want to invite people via e-mail, that's cool. And people who chat on the service's embeddable widgets don't have to be Meebo users at all.
Meebo Rooms users can also private-message the room's owner, who can then respond back to them in kind. This is a common feature in chat widgets, but I found Rooms' implementation of it exceptionally clear and intuitive.
Yahoo Messenger is a great, free tool for keeping in touch with your friends, but what if you only want a few of your contacts to know you're available to chat? Tom Merritt has your fix with a Quick Tip about Stealth Settings in Yahoo Messenger.
The free instant-messaging client Gaim (GDK+ AOL Instant Messenger) has become popular in recent years because of its ability to connect with a wide range of IM networks (Yahoo, MSN, IRC, Jabber/Google Talk/XMPP, AIM, ICQ, Gadu-Gadu, and others) and its extensibility in the form of user-created plug-ins.
The name Gaim came about due to complaints from AOL about the name GDK+ AOL Instant Messenger. However, as AOL Instant Messenger became more popular, AOL trademarked the acronym "AIM," leading to further legal struggles with the Gaim developers. After a series of negotations, the developers agreed to change the name of the 2.0 version of Gaim to Pidgin, based on the word for simplified speech between people who do not share a common language.
The big change in Pidgin 2.0 is the new look. The interface has been redesigned, with the option to view your Buddy List in Basic or Advanced view. Important facets like plug-ins and status availability have been broken out of the Preferences dialog and into areas of their own. Plug-ins have their own dialog available from the Tools menu, and status is now set by a drop-down menu at the bottom of your buddy list.… Read more
Editor's note: This is Part One of a two-part series on multinetwork IM clients. Don't worry, we haven't forgotten about all-in-one Web and mobile chatting.
There's a lot to chat about in the multiprotocol IM universe. Pidgin just debuted as a full-fledged version 2.0, replacing the much-loved Gaim. Trillian is gearing up to wow us all with its gleaming browser-based Astra version, and every day more and more plug-ins pop up to make this breed of protocol-bridging IM clients more extensible and functional.
If you're still logging into three separate chat services to contact your friends, it's time to consider these consolidated options.… Read more
Yahoo has launched a Web-based version of its instant messaging client, at webmessenger.yahoo.com (News.com story). It's a slick Flash-based app, and it's a comfortable messaging environment for people used to the downloadable app. The Web version doesn't give you access to all the bells and whistles of the app, such as access to the plug-ins and integrated voice chat, but it handles the basics well enough.
Like Google and AOL's Web-based instant messaging services, the big advantage is that Web-based chat apps don't require a download, so you can chat on locked-down … Read more
If more than one-fifth of Web startups are social networking sites, as the Webware 100 indicates, then a service pooling together your various online identities should be pretty handy, just like Trillian is for instant messaging. 8hands is one of the latest services designed to coordinate social networking contacts (see YoName too). It grabs your buddies from Flickr, Blogger, Twitter, TypePad, YouTube, MySpace, WordPress, and LiveJournal and displays them in a floating, IM-sized window. This free, 8.5MB alpha app took about five minutes to download on Windows XP.
8hands is supposed to rank your pals according to how often … Read more
Kyte.tv is a new service that lets people create their own TV channel. It's a bit of a mashup between a live blogging tool, a social network, and some of the live Internet TV channels we've been seeing lately with Justin.tv, and UStream.tv. Although, instead of strapping a camera to your head, you can use a cell phone.
The mobile client is a small Java application for several Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones that allows Kyte.tv users to upload photos and chat with others in a Kyte.tv channel. The mobile live blogging component is called "Lifecasting" which lets users upload pictures from their camera phone in real time. You can set it to automatically take a picture every few minutes, or every time you click the shutter. Either way, photos will show up on your channel instantly and viewers will get a visual notification that you're "live."
Kyte.tv channel owners can create as many channels as they want and add music, photos, videos, polls and text. A channel consists of a display screen, a playlist, and integrated chat room. Each channel also gets its own custom URL and branding, which is chosen by the channel owner. Alternately, there's embed code to place the entire Kyte.tv experience on a social networking profile or blog post (like we've done after the break).
One thing to note about adding music: you can't upload your own tracks. Instead you have to pick from a small selection of music from indie music service IODA. It's a lot like the music integration you get with Photobucket's video Remix tool.
What Kyte.tv has done really well is the live chat room. While it's lacking admin controls and private conversation options, you're getting the same chat experience on your computer and your phone. It's also really easy to use, as long as you're handy with your phone's keypad.
Kyte.tv is a fun service that opens up a lot of options for live blogging. Like we've seen with Twitter, mobile blogging has exploded with the help of easy-to-use tools that can be used and accessed on multiple platforms. Likewise, live video broadcasting has become something normal people can do with services like Pocketcaster and UStream.tv. Kyte.tv is happy medium between the two.
We'll be broadcasting live at various points during the day, so to visit our Kyte.tv channel, just click the read more link below.… Read more
Microsoft is hard at work on a new consumer-targeted screen-sharing and collaboration tool, code-named Tahiti. Microsoft's landing page describes it as an "easy way to share documents and screen views with small groups of friends or coworkers; anytime, anywhere."
Each group member is assigned a mouse pointer and an editing color when working the group works together on Office documents. There's also a feature called 'handouts,' which is a storage space for documents or files you want to share with the group. The tool has no integrated voice or chat features, but Microsoft will likely add … Read more