Meebo's MiniBar offers a new take on website check ins

Do we really need another way to share what we’re doing on the Web? Meebo co-founder and chief executive Seth Sternberg says yes –and his company is launching a browser extension called the Meebo MiniBar on Tuesday to allow a new kind of online sharing.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Meebo, which started out as an instant messaging service, already offers a feature for websites called the Meebo Bar, which allows readers to chat with friends and share content on social networks. But Sternberg noted that current services emphasize sharing specific articles or other pieces of content.

The MiniBar allows users to be more general. You just share the website that you’re visiting, not a particular page. You can think of the Meebo MiniBar as a kind of “Foursquare for the Web,” where users check in to websites rather than local restaurants and stores. Sternberg argued that most people feel more comfortable saying, “I’m reading The New York Times” rather than singling out an article.

Meebo plans to release the MiniBar Tuesday for Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer browsers, with Safari coming soon. One of the company’s goals for the MiniBar is to allow a new kind of “Web discovery,” where you can “follow” friends and other users to find new sites that you should be checking out.

Sternberg previewed the MiniBar for me last week. The most important feature is probably the fact that it’s unobtrusive — it doesn’t stretch all the way across the bottom of your browser the way the full Meebo Bar does — so it shouldn’t bug users as they browse. When you want to share your online location, you just hit the “share” button. You can also use the MiniBar to see who else has checked in at that site.

Unlike other “Foursquare for websites” services like Badgeville, Meebo allows users to check in anywhere online, not just the sites of specific publishers.

At the same time, Meebo is also working with publishers, specifically those who want to install “share on Meebo” buttons on their sites. It’s launching those buttons with new partners including Macy’s, Sprint, and L’Oreal Professional (so clearly this goes beyond news sites). Eventually, the company says, websites should be able to offer rewards to their most loyal visitors, which Meebo calls “VIPs”.

Meebo currently offers the Meebo Bar on more than 8,000 websites, and it reaches more than 180 million unique users each month, Sternberg said. The new check-in features will also be added to the Meebo Bar.

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