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Google Switches to Meebo and Dumps Chatback

As Google has continued its plans to integrate all of its services with its Google+ social network, it has also been eliminating many of its products that have been less than successful at the same time. In a recent post on the Official Google Blog, it was announced that several of its products were being discontinued as Google integrated some of its recent acquisitions more fully into its services1. One of the products that is being discontinued is the Google Talk Chatback widget, which allowed people to embed a Google Talk element into their websites.

Google first launched Google Talk in late 2005 to match similar services that were then being offered by their main competitors, and it became an integral part of Gmail early in 2006. It soon became a popular instant messaging (IM) platform, competing with Microsoft’s Messenger, and Google began to work towards making Google Talk interoperable with websites like Skype and eBay, but their efforts in that direction were stalled by Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype in 2006. This led to Google developing their IM Gadget as a plug-in for popular blogging platforms, most especially its own Blogger web hosting site.

Google called their chat widget Google Talk Chatback and launched it in February 2008, touting it as a portable IM system that was designed to work with any HTML website2. Right from the beginning Chatback was criticized as being too lightweight and too hard to use, and it didn’t require other people that wanted to chat with you to identify themselves. Webmasters felt that it offered too few features and too little control. Chatback compared unfavorably to the other chat platforms available, especially Meebo.

Meebo launched its Meembo Me widget in 20063 and developed its interoperability with a variety of devices along with a wide range of existing IM platforms, including MySpace IM and Facebook Chat. In 2009, the Meebo Bar was launched, which allows users to access IM via a bar at the bottoms of webpages, and the Meebo product became more focused on being an IM tool rather than a public chat platform. Following a quick rebranding in late 2011, it was announced in June that Google was buying Meebo for an estimated $100 million4. Google has since wasted no time in discontinuing its own IM product, Google Talk Chatback, and directing users to Meebo for their websites’ IM needs.

A large part of Meebo’s high price tag is due to the 250 million unique monthly visits that the service attracts, with claims that it now reaches 40% of the entire US online market5. At the same time, the Meebo bar is integrated into only a tiny fraction of the 73 million websites that are powered by WordPress, much like the old Chatback widget, which was discontinued in 2009 after registering less than 5000 downloads6, compared with over 80,000 for the popular Quick Chat widget7. Even so, it is the best cross platform IM gadget available today and adds considerably to Google’s general range of services.

Google has been buying many of the websites that it wants to include in its services but doesn’t necessarily have the skills or the desire to create in-house, like the purchase of Zagat in September 20118, that has now been combined with the old Google Places and integrated with their social network to create Google’s new business directory, Google+ Local. Like the YouTube integration that becomes complete later this year, making Meebo the focus of their IM service allows Google to focus harder on their core activity of supplying excellent user experiences and accurate and relevant search results.

References:
1. http://googleblog.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/spring-cleaning-in-summer.html

2. http://googletalk.blogspot.com.au/2008/02/google-talk-chatback.html

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meebo

4. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/04/google-meebo_n_1568963.html

5. http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/15/meebo-reaches-250-million-people/

6. http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-talk-chatback-wordpress-widget/stats/

7. http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/quick-chat/

8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_acquisitions_by_Google

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