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On Eve of Facebook Chat, Babuki Takes a Chance

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When Facebook rolls out its chat application (“Facebook Chat”) sometime this week, users are going to see an instant messaging bar at the bottom of their screen wherever they go on the site. And they won’t even have to install that bar; it will be put there automatically for everyone. That’s the power of complete and instantaneous distribution possessed by Facebook alone, and it’s what made us declare all 3rd party IM apps on Facebook as “basically dead”.

So you’d expect no more Social.IM or Friendvox’s to crop up, but a newly launched service called Babuki IM still thinks it has a chance to become the preferred IM client on Facebook.

Co-founder Aly Chesney points out two main advantages to his product: it can be used both through the Facebook website itself and through an AIR-based desktop client. And it works with other IM services such as AIM, Gtalk, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, MySpace, Livejournal, and even Social.IM.

Babuki also provides other useful features such as the ability to make yourself invisible to certain Facebook friends and to set a wider range of status messages (Away, Extended Away, Busy, etc.)

The interoperability Babuki provides with other IM services is certainly the main advantage it has over Facebook Chat, which will eschew the Jabber (XMPP) protocol in favor of a proprietary one. The Mac and PC compatible desktop client also gets a big thumbs up from me.

But the question will be whether Facebook users care enough about these features to choose Babuki over Facebook Chat, especially with the expectation that Facebook will add features and interoperability over time. I don’t predict many of them will, although we can hope that Babuki amasses enough users to pressure Facebook into adopting its superior functionality.

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