We Need a Single Chat Protocol

I once posted about how it seems like people don’t make use of online instant messengers like they used to. I remember a day when I’d sign onto AOL or Yahoo and I’d see a half a dozen people that were online. I would have expected popularity to grow as more and more people were connected to the Internet full time. For a while, it seemed to be that way, with friends staying online around the clock (mostly in an Away status). But today, usage appears to be a drop in the bucket compared to those days years ago. Perhaps that is just my own personal perception. After all, I am but one user that I am basing this whole thing on.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a single protocol to use for instant messaging, as we do for email? I want the medium to create a single way of making it all work as one, with companies competing to have the best application to serve computer users. Friends and Buddies would be universal, and everyone could be active on the same network, mobile users included.

Personally, I hate IRC, which is indeed a standard prototol, but I am not talking about that in this discussion. I am keeping this specifically about the traditional instant messenger programs. Today, there are an awful lot of chat solutions out there. I want the networks of AOL, Yahoo, MSN, ICQ, Google (Jabber), etc. to become a single, industry-standard network. I have friends scattered all over the three big networks and it is ridiculous to manage. Having so many people spread so thin over these networks makes for everyone’s suffering in the end. With new technologies like MySpace becoming so overwhelmingly popular, I think the IM programs of yesterday need to merge into one to create a force that won’t become replaced or abandoned.

I’d actually read about this kind of proposal years ago. I heard that AOL was going to open up their network for use by everyone, and write a draft for an IM standard. At the time, AOL was the most popular IM service. I do not know if that is still true today. Obviously, the opening up of their network never happened and an industry standard was never created. I wonder if the will is still there today for this type of idea. We desperately need it, or I fear everyone’s buddy list will start to dry up as people switch to whatever the latest thing happens to be at the moment.

Until such a day, I’ll continue to use Adium on my Mac and Meebo on my PC as a way to access all of my chat services in one place. Vendor chat software like the real AOL Instant Messenger have become so bloated and full of ads, it is a wonder why anyone would even consider using them. Yahoo does make a good product, but the amount of memory it consumes is a little staggering, as is true with about all of them, as more features are stacked on to compete with the other guys. Perhaps some of the bloat in these programs can be trimmed by merging, as well. Sounds like a winning idea to me.

Pogo

Me and Laura both are on a big Pogo.com gaming kick. I had visited the site in years past, but didn’t get hooked until more recently. I’ve played games on Yahoo and MSN, but Pogo is my favorite. I haven’t actually tried Yahoo Games in a while. It got kind of stale. There were no rewards. As for MSN, I love the reward badges, but hate that the whole site is so heavily built for Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer. Almost none of the games play on my Mac, which is ridiculous.

Pogo, on the other hand, mostly has Java-coded web games, which work on my PC platform. A few of the games do require IE and Active X (like Bejeweled), but I have found there to be decent alternatives to these that use Java (i.e. Sweet Tooth). Pogo is a product of EA Games, who I have much more admiration for than Microsoft. I love the reward of earning tokens. You can use them to buy in to nightly, weekly, or monthly drawings…for real money! Overall, the site itself it is a pleasure to navigate and use. Adding friends is also easy, allowing you to join your buddies in a game.

I now use Pogo exclusively for web gaming. I think it is the best of its kind. Laura is now a Club Pogo member. She is enjoying ad-free gaming, with access to 30+ games that I cannot access on my free account. Sweet. It is easy to lose a couple of hours on the site without even realizing it.

Meebo

Have you tried meebo.com? It is a website where you can log on to all of your instant messaging accounts in one place, with any software installation necessary! It not only gets the job done, it does so with ease and in style.

I often log on to IM services (usually with AOL and Yahoo). I don’t use the native software for any of them. I don’t need to, but keep in mind that in order to do some advanced features, you may need to use the actual native programs. Ads, feature bloat, and memory hogging are the mean reasons why I don’t download a one of them. I usually use an all-in-one chat program, such as Trillian (Win), Adium (Mac), and Gaim (now called Pidgin), which lets me log on to most any network there is today. But you really don’t need to install any of these programs. You can chat with all of your buddies on any service via Meebo. I used it exclusively when I first bought my Mac. I found that I really didn’t need anything more.

It has all the features you need and it works fantastically. You’ll soon forget you are using a website at all. You can sign on to any single chat service outright, but if you use more than one, I recommend creating a Meebo username so you can store all of your accounts under one roof. That way you need only sign on to their site with a single username and password.

I hear they have a sweet new mobile version of the site as well, for phone users. I have no interest in that, but if you want to sign on to your account from anyone’s computer, or your own at home without all the feature bloat, try Meebo. You won’t be disappointed. It finally does for instant messaging what webmail has done for email. All of your friends and contacts are automatically pulled from the server for each service, so absolutely no effort is required. Let’s hope this service is around for years to come.

Netflix Queue Reordering Made Easy

A few months ago, I’d written Netflix an email with a suggestion that they make it easier to reorder my movie queue. Sure, they have always allowed you to edit the number next to the each title. You can do so and change the order of your movies, completing the action with an “update” button. It did get the job done, but I am sure that I am not the only person who suggested that this be made easier.

Well, tonight I pull up my movie queue and a message comes onscreen telling me that users can now reorder their titles by simply dragging and dropping, in true AJAX style. Totally freakin’ awesome. Hooray!

Google’s Home Page

Am I the only person who has noticed that the once squeaky-clean home page at google.com is being slowly filled with links and whatnot? Once upon a time the basic page displayed only the company logo (changing occasionally for holidays), the search box, and two options: Search, or I’m Feeling Lucky. Later came the Preferences link, which is a very welcomed addition. A lot of people that I know have never bothered to even notice that it exists.

Fast forward to today and you’ll find plugs for Gmail and GoogleDocs, business solutions, advertising programs, and a link to info about Google. In addition, there is a bar across the top of the page with links for other search methods (web, images, news, etc.). In the right corner on that bar is your Gmail account name, a link to account info, and a link to sign out.

I predict that some day Google will adopt a more Yahoo-style home page and move their once basic search page to a subdomain such as search.google.com (that link as of this post takes you to the same page as google.com, in case you were wondering.) Time will tell on my predictions. Google has a lot of services and applications under its belt now. Surely they don’t want the company’s front page to be as extremely basic as it once was. As for the users, we can look back and cherish a time when it was more simple. We can still enjoy the page as it is today, but I’ll bet it will slowly start to get filled in over time.

Below is a screenshot I just made tonight of the current state of google.com:

Google.com Screenshot