But then I had a chat -- by phone- -- with Meebo CEO Seth Sternberg, and Vice President/Business Martin Green, and it made me wonder if IM can also ride the wave that's currently being surfed by companies embracing newer forms of social media, like social networks and wikis. (Oh, about the wave metaphor: I'm currently on the beach in Massachusetts.)
If you're not familiar with Meebo, the company, which is backed by, among others, Sequoia Capital and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, offers a Web-based application that lets IMers chat, using one buddy list, with their buddies across all of the major (and usually siloed) IM networks. It also offers related products like chat rooms; Meebo Me, which can add a chat window to existing sites; and Meebo Mobile. The objective is to transform IM from being a series of proprietary applications into one, big, open chat-fest. As Green said during our conversation, "If you think about communication as being proprietary, those two words should never be in the same sentence."
The reason I was talking with Sternberg and Green was because of last week's announcement that Meebo was also rolling out instant messaging to exist within online communities. It seems that in doing so, the company may be onto another missing ingredient in the current IM recipe.
As Sternberg said, Meebo kept hearing the question, "Can we get Meebo on our own Web site?" -- and as of last week, the answer is yes. Initially rolling out with a group of eight partners that includes Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids, Flixster, and myYearbook, Meebo is essentially bringing contextual IM to sites that are already heavy on sociability, like gaming sites and blog networks. (Users can also continue chatting once they've left the site by jumping over to Meebo.)
While there's obvious advantage to being able to IM within a site such as addictinggames.com, what this expanding network also does is provide Meebo with scale to attract advertisers. The initial community partners will provide Meebo with what it says will be an unduplicated global reach of almost 55 million. Though Meebo offers several ad products, one is ads that are embedded within the chat sessions themselves. Advertisers only pay when users actually engage with the ad. True, advertising has been incorporated into older IM services for some time, but little of it has ever truly broken with tired, old online advertising tradition.
Meebo says so far its click-through rates indicate its approach is working. I'll be watching closely as Meebo builds itself out across the Web. In digital media, it's way too easy to be seduced by new technology. Good for Meebo for taking an entirely new look at something that, in Web terms, is fairly old.