I got a preview of the forthcoming web IM system Wablet yesterday. I posted about the first rumors about Wablet three weeks ago. It’s a Flash service that can access all your accounts on the major IM services or users can get a Wablet username. IM sessions can be embedded in blogs and social networks or they can appear in a popup box from any page. That’s nothing new, but Wablet lets you manage multiple chats simultaneously with people who see different public facing profiles describing you.
Wablet utilizes identity, reputation, permissions, queuing, and a very nice flash interface – it’s ambitious. The business model will be in small part contextual advertising but in large part based on the use of the service by small businesses as part of their CRM strategy. I feel safe saying that consumers interested in hard core feature-rich web IM are going to love Wablet.
The company has offices in San Francisco and Manila. It’s lead by David Foote, Chairman and founder of Groovenet a social network site for the Philippines. Up to 500 test accounts will be opened over the next few weeks, Foote says, and you can submit your email address on the site now to request one.
Here’s how it works. A Wablet chat box can be embedded or linked to as a pop-up. Visitors seeking to chat with you must request permission first and you can view the person’s profile and reputation built up via chats with other users of the system before accepting an IM. So far that’s the case only for users of Wablet’s IM service, but reputation tied to usernames of other major IM vendors may be available in the future (I hope so). User profiles are set up to include badges to profile pages across a long list of other systems, so when a person seeks to initiate a chat with you there are links available to their pages on Flickr or MySpace for example. When you have multiple people seeking to chat with you, their avatars appear in a que above the box you are currently in. Waiting chats show how long the person has been waiting for approval and chats underway show lines entered in a thought bubble above avatars of people chatting with you in another window.
The primary innovation by Wablet is around identity. The service places a second layer over basic IM in which users can create multiple personas with different profiles. If you’ve got one page in a business context then people interested in chatting with you via that page will see a profile you’ve set up for business, with badges linking to perhaps your Linkedin page and something else business related. Visitors to your page in a different context, though, will see a different profile with different information about you. Outside profiles are validated when you insert code into your profile page. Wablet’s management interface makes it easy to select which of all your information will populate each persona with checkboxes and which persona you want to use in any particular chat situation. Founder David Foote says that when OpenID standards mature, Wablet will act as a simple interface for powerful use of OpenID.
You can set a different presence status for each site with a chat access point you’re managing. Chats archives and contacts are taggable and can be annotated with notes in your private account. Reputation is easy to build, with thumbs up and down and comments tied to your persona. Messages can be sent to users who are offline for later delivery. The company will release an API for Flash developers who think they can add to the already exhaustive feature set or further integrate Wablet with other services.