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Olark Is A Dead Simple Chat Widget For Site Owners

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The ability to chat live with visitors is an incredibly useful marketing tool for site owners. Whether a site owner operates an e-commerce or consumer or business service site, live chat is increasingly becoming the norm for engaging with visitors in real time. Olark, a Y Combinator-funded startup (re)launching today at Demo Day (it was previously branded hab.la), has made the ability to embed chat into a site incredibly simple.

For free, site owners can embed the widget into their site with just a few lines of javascript. One useful feature that Olark offers is the ability to add one-to-one chat to any website without editing any code. Olark’s short link service lets website owners create a link to any site they would like to chat with a visitor about. When a customer/user clicks on the link, the Olark widget will float over to the visited webpage. The site owner can use an existing IM client, such as GChat or AIM, and each customer will show up in the buddy list. So site owners can interact with visitors from their preferred chat program. Visitors show up on a website owner’s buddy list as soon as they hit the site (with an anonymous ID like Web User 1), with the name of the page they’re on. Basically, you can watch everyone’s progress through the site even when they don’t talk to you.

While Olark has a free offering, you can add different functionality to the chat widget starting at $5 per month. One paid feature is the ability to hide the widget on the site when the site owner isn’t available to chat. You can also implement chat in certain pages while restricting chat on others. While most customers will use the free version of the widget, paid clients have been doubling every month and the startup is in line to hit profitability next month. Olark is already being used already on 4000 sites, including SurveyGizmo.com and HonestIdeas.co.uk.

Of course, there are many competitors to this product out there on the market, including chat offerings by Meebo, Digsby and AOL all with the same functionality. But Olark’s co-founder, Ben Congleton says the beauty of Olark’s widget and short link service is in its extreme simplicity, allowing even a non-tech savvy site owner to be able to implement live chat on a site easily. Plus, Olark lets owners customize the widgets to resemble the look and feel of the site in which its embedded. Olark, which was originally a side project of its founders before the startup entered Y Combinator’s program, was rebranded from hab.la during the program. Congleton says that the decision was based on a few considerations, including confusion around the spelling and pronunciation of “Habla” as well as the advantage of having a .com domain versus the .la domain from Hab.la.

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