Disclosure: Userplane is a sponsor of Read/WriteWeb

Userplane, the provider of community web apps that was acquired by AOL in August last year, is today releasing Userplane Userlist - a Flash-based instant messaging app that you can integrate into web sites. Basically Userlist enables users on a site to view other users' online status and initiate IM conversations. It's aimed at online communities and corporate websites, but I can also see a use for this type of functionality in social networks and perhaps blogs (more on that in a minute). Userlist is implemented by inserting a script into a web site, which gets the app up and running. While currently it only allows single user chat, future developments include multi-user chat integration, multi-user games, and saved buddies. Also coming soon is an advertising revenue-sharing program.

There are other products on the market implementing IM/chat into websites too. However it should be noted that most of the initial entrants into this market, like Gabbly and 3bubbles, did not pan out. Library Clips profiled a number of them last year - and to my knowledge none have been successful. It's fair to say then that real-time chat in web sites has probably not reached its potential yet. Another company in this space to watch is Tangler - which is building a tool for enabling real-time discussions anywhere on the web. Tangler is currently in private beta and they're looking for more beta testers if you're interested.

Conclusion

Despite the lack of success so far, I think real-time chat in websites is a trend we'll see more of during 2007 and beyond. While IM services like AIM and Yahoo Messenger dominate the chat market, there is room for turn-key chat solutions like Userplane or Tangler for web sites and online communities. They will get good take-up from sites where real-time communication is important (an online call center for example) or where the community is passionate enough about its core topic that members want to chat about it in real time.

What other products do you recommend for implementing IM into web sites? And do you think it's something more and more sites will look to do?