Meebo; A good idea, poorly-implemented

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A friend of mine suggested I try migrating away from Pidgin on Windows, gaim and Skype on Linux, to “Meebo“, a web-based IM aggregation service. Basically you create a Meebo account, then add all of your AOL AIM, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, Jabber, Google Chat accounts, and you get them in one single interface.

Meebo's interface is horrible

Sounds simple, right? Wrong.

The interface is VERY buggy on Firefox, and they force these repeated, annoying blog postings at you. You can’t disable them, you can’t turn them off, and you’re shown the same blog post hundreds of times, until they make another post, and then you’re shown that one hundreds of times too. You can’t avoid them, and that is my biggest pet-peeve with the service.

I’ve already reported that particular annoyance, but of course nothing is done about it. The Meebo blogs are write-only. Nobody there actually reads the comments or responds to them, let alone do anything about things posted in the comments. Not a very useful way to use a blog, that’s for sure.

Yes, Meebo is “free” (questionably), but it isn’t providing anything more than what I get with the other clients, and in fact, it provides me a lot LESS features.

It is, as my friend says in another context: “…a good idea, poorly implemented.“. The opposite of that corollary of course would be “…a bad idea, well-implemented“. Meebo is a great concept, riddled with ads, forced blog postings in popups, and too many bugs to recount here.

So let’s enumerate the bugs I’ve found so far with Meebo:

  1. Unnecessary use of (broken and poorly-written) Javascript everywhere in the application and the UI. Why do simple hrefs require javascript to function? Please stop doing that. The web has used hrefs and links for over a decade without needing to resort to Javascript to make them work. If you must, provide a proper fallback to allow them to continue to function without making insecure javascript a requirement.
  2. Annoying spam popups every time you log in, shown hundreds of times until the next blog spammer adds a new entry, and then you get that popup a few hundred times. This problem is easily solved with simple user-side or server-side cookies (preferably both). I don’t think the Meebo developers have mastered basic web development yet though, because they seem to have skipped the class on these 10+ year old technologies.

    Meebo spam popups

  3. Very confusing UI elements. For example, when I log on, I have two buttons at the bottom of the “buddy list” window: One labeled “Sign on” (I’m already signed on), and one labeled “Sign off”. Why not have one button there labeled “Sign off”. Since the buddy list is not shown when you’re logged off, having a “Sign on” button there is flat-out silly. These buttons (and their associated actions), belong at the TOP of the screen, where the other actions are (“accounts”, “preferences”, “help” and so on).

    Confusing Meebo signoff buttons

  4. There’s some sort of useless slidey window thing at the bottom of the screen, which by default is empty, and expanded. It has a chevron that lets me minimize it, but the next time I log out and back in, it is expanded (“open”?) again, and I’m shown the same popup blog post that I’ve already seen for the last 40 times I logged in. What this little slidey window is for, I simply do not know. It isn’t labeled, and there is never anything at all inside of it.
    Confusing Meebo slidey buttons
  5. Can’t sort buddy names by alphabetical, last-seen, most-recently used, etc.
  6. Can’t block/kick/ban buddy names (to stop the incoming flood of ICQ spammers)
  7. Can’t set any specific sounds for specific users or groups. This is HIGHLY useful if you’re working in another tab, and want to only be notified by sound, or a specific sound, when a particular user contacts you.
  8. Likewise, you can’t disable sounds on a per-protocol or per-buddy basis.
  9. No search of chatlogs
  10. Inconsistent chat log history
  11. No way to purge chat logs older than ‘n’ hours/days/weeks/
  12. And last but not least… no SSL support! EVERYTHING IS SENT IN THE CLEAR! This means I can sit at Panera bread in the parking lot and log every single chat conversation everyone is having over Meebo. This is just an enormous oversight on their part. If you’re going to aggregate multiple usernames/passwords into a web interface, the VERY FIRST thing you should do, is lock it down behind https (SSL).

In short, Meebo is completely useless, unless you’re a one-to-one chatter using MySpace or Facebook, don’t care about security or privacy and only want a simple “text messaging” interface similar to what you have on your mobile phone.

I refuse to go back to Pidgin/gaim, because of the children running that project now. Those kids can’t make up their minds anymore, and have alienated a lot of potential supporters and developers with their bad choices, ignorance and broken egos.

So I’m still on the prowl for a proper, multi-protocol IM client that doesn’t get in my way or force-feed me things I didn’t ask for. Simple, lean and functional.. that’s all I want or need.

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