I still have not been able to install the Jybe extension in Firefox without my computer melting down, but I have been successful in getting it to work in IE (not that I really want to be using IE). Yesterday, I did a test run of Jybe with Stephen Francoeur, The Teaching Librarian. We co-browsed the wikipedia and then went to his University’s website to try using the databases. There we encountered some problems with authentication, and we had the same problems when we tried FSU’s website). We both found that Jybe scores high in the usability category — it’s easy to install and intuitive to use. Neither of us had problems getting into the session and neither of us got kicked out of the session (which has happened with other chat products I’ve used). Co-browsing was a lot of fun on regular websites. The co-scrolling feature was really neat and allowed us to see exactly what the other person was viewing.

Here are what I perceive to be the pros and cons of the current version of Jybe:

1. Easy-to-use interface
2. You can share documents, powerpoint, etc. for online presentations (easy to convert to HTML)
3. Co-scrolling – you can see when the other person scrolls
4. Easy to invite others to join the session
5. Stays in sync well on most pages
6. Co-text entry is allowed on some sites
7. Supports multiple users (I don’t know what the maximum number of users is though)

1. Authentication problems – we had trouble staying linked when we went into pages that required a log-in to a proxy server. This happened in two different Universities’ websites. The one who was authenticated was able to log both individuals in, but then when it came time to search, only the person who had logged in was able to see the search results. The other person was either stuck at the front page or got an authentication error message. Even when I logged into Stephen’s University’s proxy server (he was automatically authenticated as he was in the library), we weren’t able to do searches together. We tried about a dozen permutations of each of us logging in and trying a search, and all were unsuccessful. This would make it difficult to use Jybe in a virtual reference environment where users might be communicating with the librarian from outside of the library.
2. No session-level control for the “moderator”. There is no way for the leader of the session to “lock down” the controls, which means that people can start scrolling all over the screen and clicking on things when the moderator is trying to explain something. It would be good to have a button that the person who initiated the session could press so that they were the only ones allowed to scroll, click on, or type anything.
3. No record of the session is generated, so users must copy and paste the discussion into a document if they want to save it. Still, they would not have a list of the sites visited. This is an important factor in the virtual reference environment.
4. There is no way to open more than one tab or window. But even if Jybe could provide that, it would be problematic, since IE doesn’t have tabs like Firefox does.
5. Can’t always see what the other person is typing. In all of the forms and search boxes that Stephen and I tried to type in, the passive user couldn’t see what the other person was typing. I’ve heard that you can view what the other person is typing on some forms, but it didn’t work for us. Could it have been because I was using IE and he was using Firefox? I don’t know.
6. Jybe has to be downloaded. And anything that needs to be downloaded is not particularly practical for the virtual reference environment.
7. Someone had already mentioned this, but it is difficult to type/chat and browse at the same time. Some sort of voice functionality (Skype?) would be very useful.

All in all, I believe Jybe has the potential to be a great product for businesses and libraries. I am most convinced of this because of how responsive the Jybe Team is to criticism and suggestions. My article a few days ago hadn’t even appeared in Bloglines yet, and already I’d gotten a concerned email from Brian at Advanced Reality trying to troubleshoot my problem. However, there is a lot of functionality that the Jybe team still needs to add and a few kinks that need to be worked out in order for Jybe to be truly useful to librarians. Judging by the significant improvements made in the most recent version, I am optimistic about the future of this software. I want Jybe to be successful, if only to make libraries less dependent on clunky Virtual Reference software. Keep up the great work!