In 2008, we began to see the migration of instant messaging features away from standalone client/server systems and onto the web, residing in-line with web page content. Thanks to folks like Meebo, Facebook and others, I see this trend taking off in 2009, as more and more social networking sites allow users to interact in real-time, right there on site pages.
In an BusinessWeek article titled “The End of Instant Messaging (As We Know It)“, Douglas MacMillan highlights this instant messaging shift. Meebo CEO Seth Sternberg had an interesting quote in this article:
“The interesting thing about live chat is that it forces the user to focus persistently. If a site’s [average engagement time] is three minutes, we can move it to six.”
I think an analogy can be made to engagement time in virtual events – the existence of chat (both private and public chat) extends the average engagement time of attendees. Smart social networks will be quick to incorporate a chat/IM feature in-page on their sites, like Flixster has done with Meebo (see BusinessWeek article for more info).
I’d argue that AOL’s Instant Messenger was the true genesis of the “social web” and the emergence of Web 2.0 has been in parallel to the disparate IM systems. Now that the two worlds are coming together, the social web becomes that much more social. This makes social networking sites stickier — and all the more better for it.