Monday, December 28, 2009

War of the Toolbars: Wibiya Strikes Back

It was only a few days ago that I published an entry on toolbars. The article compared Meebo to Wibiya, with Meebo winning the battle. In the end, I found Meebo's chat feature a major factor that quickly produced results. In fact, immediately following the installation of the Meebo bar, six Facebook friends initiated online conversations. The experience was overwhelmingly positive.

Later, Dror Ceder, the CEO and founder of Wibiya, responded to the article and informed us that we could expect "a big surprise before the year ends" and it was "something that a lot of people have been waiting for." Well, ladies and gentlemen, today is that day.

Moments ago, I learned that Wibiya just released their newest toolbar. You will not be disappointed.

According to the Wibiya web site, the new platform is merely the beginning. The team has streamlined the application so it runs "faster and smoother." The release also includes a number of new apps. Most notably is the addition of the website/webpage chat, real time statistics, and the YouTube channel.

Featured Apps In Greater Detail

Website/Webpage Chat
One of the things that sold Meebo for me was its ability to chat with friends and visitors. At the time, Wibiya relied solely on interactions within the Facebook Community, which never really took off for me. So, to see the company partnering with TinyChat is a huge plus in my book.

Depending upon the size of your audience, Wibiya offers both a website and webpage chat. The difference comes down to choice. With a website chat, visitors can access a single chat room from anywhere on your site. For smaller sites like mine, I would probably begin with this option so as to make the chat more engaging.

Larger sites may find the webpage chat extremely useful. This application will create a room for each page on the site. Assuming I had the numbers, this feature would be great for conversations surrounding popular blog posts.

If that was not cool enough, let me inform you that visitors can log into the chat using their Twitter or Facebook accounts. This is huge in my eyes, because Wibiya does not require visitors to create another account in order to chat. Another advantage to connecting with these popular social networking sites is that the toolbar will send notices, upon request, to friends using a shortened URL. This application will help site owners keep visitors longer and even attract new readers. It is a marvelous concept that I am anxious to use.

Real Time Statistics
Another cool addition is the use of real time stats. With this tool, site owners can see, in real time, the number of visitors, popular pages, and location of users on a geolocation map. I really like this tool because it lets me know when someone is actually on the site and what they are reading right now. For small sites like mine, every visit is important and the service will help feed our need for immediate gratification.

My only criticism with the real time stats is that it appears to be limited., the real time service provider, offers a pro subscription for a fee ranging between $5 and $50 per month. Based upon your subscription level, site owners can obtain additional reports, widgets, and personalized pages. Until one purchases a paid subscription, the application will only show a basic page filled with adds and banners.

Overall, the real time stat app is a huge plus for those of us interested in this kind of information. Having played with Woopra and other real time services, Wibiya has made it really easy to have the bells and whistles.

YouTube Channel
Similar to Meebo, Wibiya now offers a YouTube channel. Site owners that use YouTube can pull their videos into an attractive 3-D wall for easy browsing and viewing. Serviced by Cooliris, this upgrade should help lower bounce rate while increasing the length of time visitors hang around the your site.

Other Noticeable Changes  

The aforementioned upgrades are more than I was expecting, which makes me a very happy camper. In the process of rolling those changes out, Wibiya has enhanced other areas as well.

  • Add hyperlinks in 'Live Notification'
  • Rearrange buttons on toolbar
  • Translate web content into numerous languages
  • Advertise social networking tools with easy-to-use badges
  • Add/remove toolbar apps with user-friendly interface

Final Thoughts

By now, there should be no doubt that I am impressed with Wibiya's enhancements. I believe the heavily equipped toolbar will help engage readers, lower bounce rate, and make new friends.

Strategic Partnerships
I applaud the company and its strategic use of service providers, which ultimately empowers site owners with a set of tools to compete. Hopefully, in a future iteration, those third-party apps will better align themselves with the Wibiya experience. When I write about the Wibiya experience, I mean each app should look like it was made to accompany the already attractive product.

Facebook Community vs. Facebook Fan Page
In the previous toolbar, Wibiya developed the Facebook Community. Initially, I was excited about this feature, but soon realized it has the potential to confuse users with its similarities to the Facebook Fan Page. As I understand it, the community is yours, but it uses Facebook to authenticate users. As a result, your community members can talk to each other through the shoutbox. Additionally, members can update their Facebook status, read member profiles, view photos, and add members as friends. All of this can be done without ever leaving your site.

Similarly, the Facebook Fan Page app shows a list of  fans and displays site activity. I personally like this app over Meebo's because it shows comments, which does a better job of attracting new fans and increasing activity. However, it gets confusing when joining the Facebook Community does nothing for my Facebook Fan Page, or vice versa. Therefore, users would have to know that signing up for the community has no effect on the Fan Page, which could affect the Fan Page/Community numbers.

All in all, I am very pleased with Wibiya. Dror and his team should be proud of all the hard work and forethought delivered in this upgrade. As of this post, I have returned to Wibiya as my toolbar provider. I believe the service offerings are useful and it should help me offer readers a more dynamic user experience.

If you have not had the opportunity to try Wibiya on your site, I strongly recommend you take this opportunity to install it. For most of the major blogging sites (Wordpress, Blogger, Drupal, etc.), installation takes no more than a few minutes. For custom pages, Wibiya offers alternative solutions, which I imagine, takes little to no effort.

For those who currently use a toolbar, I am interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject. What do you like, dislike, or need in a toolbar? What has your experience been with Meebo or Wibiya? Let's get together and discuss it further in the comment section below.

Until next time...


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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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