Monday, December 21, 2009

War of the Toolbars: Meebo vs. Wibiya

This evening I learn that Meebo finally released its Meebo Bar to the world. For months, the cool little toolbar was only available to large businesses and well-known blogs. At first glance, it looked a tool we could use at North Carolina Central University. I assumed it was similar to what Facebook has done for its internal pages where it provides a chat for members. The more I examined the toolbar on Mashable, the sooner I realized it didn't have the same capability.

While I waited on Meebo's public release, I decided to check out Wibiya's toolbar. Wibiya, another toolbar provider, seemed to offer similar features as Meebo. Specifically, it had connections to Facebook, Twitter, and RSS Feeds. As an added bonus, site owners could also post announcements that would pop up upon a visit.

Overall, I have been pretty happy with Wibiya, as it has allowed me to connect to my Facebook Fan Page. However, with Meebo finally releasing its bar, I had to give it a test run and compare it to Wibiya's offerings.

What Is A Toolbar?
Let me first go back and explain the toolbar idea. Based on my limited experience, Meebo and Wibiya are two companies that offer site owners a free gadget to interact with visitors. If you are on damondnollan.com, you should see a gray bar floating at the bottom of this page.

First Reactions
Set Up
Both Meebo and Wibiya were easy to set up. Maybe its because I'm on Blogger, but for me it only took a matter of seconds before I was up and running. My first reaction, after using Wibiya for a while, is that I'm missing something with Meebo.

Twitter
For starters, I cannot post to Twitter from the Meebo toolbar. With Wibiya, I can see my Twitter posts and respond to tweets directly from the application. Meebo only allows me to follow a user or hashtag. While its cool, I feel like I'm missing the functionality. Although, I must admit I barely used the Twitter tool when Tweetdeck is open.

Facebook Fan Page
Meebo offers a Facebook fan page, but so does Wibiya. The only difference I see between the two, outside of the layout, is that Wibiya allows visitors to see Facebook comments while Meebo does not.

Extras
Wibiya provides a number of extra stuff like games and a search bar, but I never really used those features. For me, I stuck with Facebook's fan page, Twitter, RSS feed, and the announcement box. Wibiya's announcement box (Live Notification) is a neat tool that allowed me to write a message to my visitors. When they arrived, the box would open and display my announcement.

Chat
The Meebo bar's most notable feature is the chat. Through Meebo, users can connect Twitter, Facebook, AIM, Yahoo, Google, and a few other chat clients. So, when friends are online, you can start a conversation while sitting on the site. Additionally, visitors can initiate conversations through a Meebo chat window.

Sharing
Both Wibiya and Meebo offer some kind of share functionality. Wibiya provides a longer list of social networking sites while Meebo only uses Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, and e-mail.

Statistics
As with most web applications today, both toolbars provide some form of user statistics. This feature is available through the company's web site. Once logged in, site owners can view which feeds were clicked, how many visitors one has had, and even visitors to the Facebook fan site. I think they do a fair job of showing user behavior. Do understand that they are not providing Google Analytic type reports, but at least you have an idea of what your visitors are doing.

YouTube
The last tool I found useful was on Meebo's toolbar. Using YouTube, site owners can display videos from a single YouTube account. I like this offering because it allows visitors to search and view videos without leaving the web site.

And the Winner Is...
While I find Wibiya provides a number of wonderful functionality, Meebo really shines with the chat feature. Since installing the Meebo bar a few hours ago, I have been in five chat conversations with Facebook friends.

At any point in time, I can easily log out of chat and focus on completing tasks without being disturbed. In the event I am not available, visitors can leave a message.

Finally, Meebo makes it very easy to share links, videos, and pictures with friends through a cool drop and drag function.

What are your thoughts on Meebo vs. Wibiya? Do you have a preference? Do you use a bar on your site? How has it helped you stay connected? Share information? Let's talk in the comment section below.

Until next time...

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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