Meebo, which makes a multinetwork IM Web service, is launching a chat-room service called Rooms tonight. Like the company's other embeddable component, MeeboMe (review), it's simple to embed a Rooms viewer in a blog post or Web page. But Rooms is a full-on, multiparty chat room, which makes it a lot more interesting. MeeboMe, in contrast, allows only one-to-one communication between a Web site visitor and the Meebo user who created it--useful, but not as fun.
I've embedded a Rooms widget further down in this post. As you can see, there's more to it than just chat. Rooms makes it easy for users to share media and Web sites. All you have to do to embed a YouTube video or a Flickr photo (or media from Metacafe, Google Video, PhotoBucket, or MySpace) is paste the URL into the chat window, then other users will be able to play media directly, without leaving the chat session.
Room owners can make their forums open to everyone or by invitation only, and they can separately lock down the posting of media and links if they want (I didn't, so please keep your links clean). The media feature of Meebo Rooms reminds me of Kyte.tv (review) and of YouTube's Active Sharing experiment.
Meebo Rooms is not the only embeddable group chat. We've covered several competing products: Weezu, Me.dium, Dai.sy, Chatsum, Yakalike, Planet Minibox, Yackpack, Yaplet, and Zpeech, for example. Meebo Rooms does take advantage of Meebo's slick, Web-based instant message service, though. You can easily invite people into a room by just dragging their name from your buddy list into the room. But Meebo doesn't force the chat/IM integration on you: If you want to invite people via e-mail, that's cool. And people who chat on the service's embeddable widgets don't have to be Meebo users at all.
Meebo Rooms users can also private-message the room's owner, who can then respond back to them in kind. This is a common feature in chat widgets, but I found Rooms' implementation of it exceptionally clear and intuitive.
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