Blog Post

Goober: IM, Social Networks, Voice and Video Chat

Goober, which is now in beta for version 3.0, is a tool that aims to put all of your communications streams in one place.

It’s a busy space, Goober competes with desktop multi-IM programs like Pidgin, Adium, Trillian and Digsby; web-based services like Meebo; mobile apps like Fring and Beejive; and programs that add social networks to the mix, like Socialite. It also wants to compete with services that add voice and/or video chat functions, like VoxOx and Nimbuzz. The elephant in the voice and video communication arena, of course, is Skype, which has just rolled out a Windows-only beta of group video chats. Google Talk (s goog) already offers video chat, and its acquisition of Gizmo5 will certainly result in upgrades to Google Voice. And Goober also gets to compete in the silly name contest.

So why do we need another multi-protocol communication service? Goober claims it has the following advantages over Skype and other VoIP providers:

  • Users can call more countries (277), although Goober doesn’t offer incoming landline calls like Skype and Google Voice.
  • Users can chat with users of protocols including ICQ, MSN (s msft), Google Talk, Jabber,
    AOL (s aol), Yahoo (s yhoo) and QQ.
  • The program integrates with Facebook and Twitter.
  • Goober will offer six-way video conferencing on both PC and Mac (during the beta, conferences are limited to four).
  • Outgoing call costs are 25-50 percent less, with calls in the US and Canada offered at a “record low” $.01 per minute.

I’ve tried the Mac beta, and while it’s usable, it’s not as elegant as the app from Nimbuzz (although it beats VoxOx’s ugly interface by a mile). The cluttered interface is not enhanced by obtrusive, animated banner ads.

Entering one’s IM and social network accounts is simple enough, although one must provide passwords, as there is no support for oAuth or Facebook Connect. It is possible to enter more than one account from the same service, but I wasn’t able to use Google Apps credentials to add Gtalk accounts.

Its tools for managing contacts are limited. Goober allows users to create groups, but if a contact appears twice (for example,  as a Gtalk and Facebook connection) the entries can’t be merged. One can’t sync or import address books, either.

I’m disappointed that Goober doesn’t support Growl, having opted instead for non-standard on-screen notifications. Goober also has mobile and web versions, but these are really different products with less robust feature sets.

For Mac users, Goober offers video conferencing options not (yet) available on Skype. For daily IMing, though, I’ll probably continue to use Adium.

Goober is offering the first 5,000 people to download the beta of Goober 3.0 a free voucher for $5 in credit. Try it, and let us know what you think in the comments.