Yahoo has just released a public beta of Messenger for the Web, a new site that puts instant messaging inside the user's web browser. The site is free to use, requiring only a Yahoo account to join. The web IM client, like its standalone brother, integrates both Yahoo Instant Messenger and Windows Live (formerly MSN) Messenger so that the user can chat with friends on either service.
- Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger get together
- Yahoo to embed instant messaging into e-mail
Yahoo Messenger for the Web works on any modern browser (I tested it with Opera) and uses Adobe's Flex to provide a fast user interface experience. The UI is somewhat similar to Apple's iChat, with giant "talkie" bubbles surrounding each message. Advanced features such as avatars don't appear to be implemented in the web-based client, but all the basic features are there. Adding new friends to the list is as easy as entering in their e-mail address.
There have been other web-based IM programs before, such as the cross-platform Meebo, Google's Gtalk, and web-based "operating systems" with IM clients such as YouOS. Yahoo is hoping to get the edge on other clients by offering an attractive interface, as well as helpful features such as the ability to search through message histories.
There are still a few bugs evident in this early beta, such as the fact that Windows Live Messenger users on the other side will occasionally see an incorrect message saying that the user appears to be offline:
Yahoo Instant Messenger for the Web.
Still, it's a beta, and despite the lack of advanced features it seems to work fairly well. The question must be asked, however: what compelled Yahoo to put instant messaging in a web browser? Did they receive a generous donation from the Society For Putting Things on Top of Other Things? According to Yahoo, the motivation was to allow people who might not be able to take advantage of IM—people behind firewalls that block the protocol or who use public computers that don't have IM programs installed—to join in the fun that is instant messaging. In addition, Yahoo Web Messenger is an experiment to see how the public responds to the idea of embedded chat inside web pages.
To get a jump on markets that may not yet have been exposed to IM software, Yahoo is rolling out Web Messenger not only in English but with localized versions for Brazil, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. In these countries, a large proportion of users access the Web from Internet cafes. Yahoo is already the predominant IM service in many of these countries—according to ComScore, over 80 percent of instant messaging users in the Philippines and Vietnam are on Yahoo.
Cool leap forward, isnt it ?