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Meebo wants to get the Web chatting

July 16, 2008 |  9:01 pm

Seth Sternberg wants to bring live chat to the entire Web. It’s a far-reaching ambition and one that won’t happen in an instant, analysts say. But Meebo, the instant-messaging service that Sternberg co-founded, took another step closer tonight with the announcement that, starting this fall, it plans to offer live chat on eight partner sites including MTV’s Addicting Games, Flixster and PopSugar.

Meebo on Flixster

Other sites interested in offering live chat can get information at  meebo.com/communityIM.

Basically it works like this: With Meebo's help, members of online communities such as social networks, gaming sites and blogs can exchange instant messages on those sites. And, no matter where they are on the Web, they can take those friends and those conversations with them.

The partner sites benefit because their sites become more social. And they can entice users back by keeping them updated on what’s going on with their friends on those sites when they venture elsewhere. Meebo runs advertising inside the chats and splits the revenue 50-50.

"What we are really doing is turning people’s lists of friends into an IM network," said Sternberg, Meebo's 29-year-old chief executive. "The goal for the user is to make it so they have the most up-to-date buddy list" that spans all the places they hang out. Users can stay current on what’s happening on all the sites they like to frequent.

Meebo on FlixsterMeebo began as a site for friends to chat on different instant-messaging services such as AOL, MSN and Yahoo. It added another service that created pages around topics in rooms where users can chat and post photos or videos.

The genius was solving the problem of having multiple accounts without requiring users to download the software. Instead, everything happens inside the browser window.

Meebo's concept of the "live Web" won over investors. Despite concerns about the economy and online advertising, Meebo recently raised $25 million in a third funding round that valued the Mountain View, Calif., start-up at about $200 million. It has formed partnerships with heavyweights and employs about 40 people. Its goal: to become a mainstream mainstay.

Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang says Meebo is on the right track. Ultimately, he envisions people traveling the Web, taking their people connections them with them, a concept called the "social Web."

"It’s a good start," Owyang said of Meebo. "It has a long ways to go."

-- Jessica Guynn

Screenshots courtesy of Meebo

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