Who needs downloads? Not instant-messaging fans, apparently, according to Nielsen NetRatings. The online division of the legendary statistics-crunching company just released a study that tracks the fastest-growing instant-messaging software products from August 2006 to June 2007, and the results indicate that Web-based is the way to go.
The most rapidly growing IM client, according to the study, is Meebo, which launched just over a year ago. The fact that it's so new may be partially responsible for its rapid growth--354 percent from August 2006 to June 2007. But Meebo also packs a double punch: not only is it Web-based and offers embed features so that you can literally IM from your blog, but it's also a "universal IM" service that can aggregate your buddy lists from AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, and Google Talk. Desktop-based universal IM clients like Trillian and Adium might not be growing as quickly as Meebo is, but they nevertheless continue to spread as people realize that having one buddy list open is a lot easier than two or three.
Additionally, Meebo received some more buzz when it launched media-rich, embeddable chat rooms this spring.
The second-fastest-growing client, according to the study, may be riding the wave of novelty--it's Imvu, a downloadable client that specializes in 3D avatar chat that's not unlike Second Life; according to the study, it's grown 154 percent over the past 10 months. In third place, with 149 percent growth, is Google Talk--another service that's grown thanks to Web-based use, as it's integrated directly into the Gmail home page.
After those three, the fourth and fifth in Nielsen NetRatings' top five showed a significant drop in growth--Paltalk, which specializes in video chat (and is headquartered in my hometown of NYC) was listed as having 26 percent growth, and Skype's integrated IM was in fifth place with 20 percent.