A new chat system surfaced on digg so we jumped into the demo chat to give it a whirl. ajax im is a stand alone web based instant messenger in its current state. Users can create accounts and buddy lists. Once you know the usernames of other users, you can add them and initiate instant message chats with that user. Overall, we liked the design of the interface. It was simple, clean and user friendly. Each chat window is resizable and moveable within the browser window. Various windows and tabs flash with updates and notifications. However, this is definitely the initial stages of development.
Performance was pretty good, but it’s hard to really gauge since we were not able to determine how many users were online at any one time. There were no admin or moderator functions such as kick or ban at the time of the review. Users did not have the ability to ignore others as far as we could tell. Basic functionality for bold, italic and underline text were available but no text colors or emoticons. Chat history was logged, though we do not know how much or how long.
Luckily we were able to catch the sole developer, Josh (chat username: twist), online and conducted an impromptu interview. He was able to answer a few questions for us. As we expected, the items that we would like to see developed further, are planned for the future. Josh was very receptive to our questions and feedback. He indicated to us that he was targeting a niche market of easily deployable and maintained open source system for small community sites, company intranets and the like. We definitely see a market for this and we have yet to find a suitable system that we would recommend for the average site owner (however, there are plenty of choices out there). Josh definitely has a lot of work ahead of him. For example, there is currently no way to display other online users (those that aren’t on your buddy list) so this is up to the individual sites to implement to their liking. While this approach is good for the knowledgeable, it will make it difficult for small non-technical site owners or businesses to deploy in a useful manner.
We did not discuss technical details since we have not taken a look at the code. We have downloaded the source code and will be taking a look in the future. After we review the code, attempt an install and test out the system for ourselves, we will follow up with a technical review.
Before we ended the chat, we did have a short discussion about the market and other competing or similar products. Userplane Webchat, Stickam and Lace were mentioned. In response, Josh left us with a teaser regarding audio. Of course, he did not say whether it was in relation to ajax im or another project completely, so I guess we will all have to wait and see.