Attempting to do a group IM today with some friends turned sour due to client incompatibilies and other problems. I remembered Campfire now being available with a permanent free account. I went ahead and registered to give it a whirl. Our chat worked out fairly well except the new Opera preview appears to not support it. After that was over I asked edsu from #code4lib to join and got the screen above.

My first impression is that it is a hybrid of IM and IRC with a few helpful features thrown in. The ability to jump in at any time, leave chat rooms active, browse logs, etc, is a really nice addition. It’s also very simple to use. You can turn on guest access and then give the URL to people you want to join.

Another nice feature is that the accounts are only limited by number of users and space. You can create as many rooms as you want. I really see something like this being useful for small businesses or even just friends planning stuff. The obvious idea of virtual reference also comes up. A small library could easily use it for free. It would take a little bit to get a workflow but you could either start a seperate room for each person or when a person joins, lock the room so it’s off-record and others can’t enter. Once a patron leaves, reopen it so others can join. Sure beats some of the giant java based junk that’s out there. IM though is probably just as good an option if not better. If you library happens to block such things or it would take too much training, this may be an option to look at.

For a better idea of what it is and what it does: