Meebo lets you IM from any desktop

* IMing with Meebo is almost perfect

Making it possible to communicate from anywhere, on any platform to anyone is a primary interest of communication service providers everywhere. First it was Webmail, which allowed you to check your e-mail from any PC with a browser. Then came Webmail and true e-mail on cell phones followed by instant messaging on cell phones. Now we have IM on the Web.

A start-up company, Meebo, has launched an eponymous service that allows you to log on to your AIM, ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, Jabber, GTalk, or MSN Messenger account and send and receive IMs.

This really is a clever idea. Once you log on to an IM account Meebo uses Ajax to create a client-side desktop with a list of your contacts down the right hand side and floating panels for each open conversation. That's it, it just works! How insanely great is that?

Now you might look at this system and wonder why Meebo doesn't use SSL to ensure that passwords are secured. The company has its reasons: because it uses Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. Meebo says: "We can only make requests to the same server and protocol as the originating Web page - so, if you request from https, the server has to be https, and the same goes for http."

The technique Meebo uses instead of SSL is to encrypt your login password using JavaScript with a 1024-bit RSA key and decrypt it server-side using OpenSSL - check out an explanation of this at the Meebo blog.

Meebo also notes that: "For most people, SSL is not very responsive and a lot harder to scale, which means that the Meebo experience wouldn't be very useful, or fun. So to keep true to the Ajax model of fast and lightweight Webware and address security concerns, we've chosen the password encryption route."

This is a tremendous idea and in the blog, Meebo has many very positive comments from all sorts of people who have found Meebo incredibly useful when they couldn't get access to a regular IM client (soldiers in Iraq number among their most enthusiastic users).

Meebo is almost perfect. My only complaint is that to figure out what Meebo is doing you have to dig around on its site. Even the information about how it secures passwords isn't easily found. What it needs is a "What is this all about?" link on its home page. Then Meebo would be perfect.

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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