Mass Instant Message That Link With The Tell-A-Friend Widget

There’s a new content sharing widget in town and it’s called Tell-A-Friend.

Like ShareThis and AddThis, Tell-A-Friend is placed on webpages by publishers so their visitors can easily share content with friends (we’ve placed the AddThis button at the bottom of every TechCrunch post). But unlike these existing solutions, Tell-A-Friend users can share content with their instant messaging contacts in addition to their email and social networking ones.

Tell-A-Friend supports four IM services: Yahoo, Google, AIM and MSN. When you send something via IM, the service essentially signs into your account in the background (I know this because AIM warned me that I was now signed in from two locations). It then sends an IM with the link and message you’ve provided to all the selected recipients. One big problem, though: if your recipients aren’t online, they won’t get the message, and there’s no way to check their status from the widget. (Update: This appears to be a problem on a per-service basis. For example, Gtalk supports offline messaging but AIM does not).

If you’d like to simply email a link to your friends, you can also pick recipients from your Yahoo Mail, Windows Live, or Gmail address books. Links can be sent to WordPress, Blogger, Facebook, and Twitter contacts as well. Overall, that’s 11 services – a number that pales in comparison to AddThis’s 34 and ShareThis’s 36.

Another nice characteristic of Tell-A-Friend is that it doesn’t pop up any new windows, even when sharing on social networks. But since publishers are reluctant to clutter their pages with too many widgets, Tell-A-Friend will have to add more supported services if it’s to catch on.

Pramati, the maker of Tell-A-Friend, plans to monetize the widget with a premium version that allows for branding and contests.