Yackpack: Skype meets walkie-talkies [Update x3]
Yackpack lets you chat with friends or co-workers without downloading a standalone application.
There have been several communication tools on Webware in the last few days. Joining the party is Yackpack, a messaging tool that lets you chat live as a group or swap recorded messages to group members, all within your Web browser.
Yackpack creates a visual chat room for you, with floating faces representing users. Playing and recording messages is handled through a slick and simple player that sits in the top right of the interface. Handling who you are and aren't talking to is as simple as clicking icons. Toggling all group members is managed with a single select all button. You also can add and remove users without having to leave the app, which is very nicely implemented.
Leaving voice messages for others is a simple affair; however retrieving them is a bit cumbersome. When someone sends you a message, you'll be notified by e-mail. Clicking the provided link takes you to a separate Yackpack module where you can listen to the message. If you're already using Yackpack, you can just click under a user's name, and it pulls up an in-box of sorts with messages he or she has sent. I'd like to see some sort of notification within the app, though, and a centralized place to view all your messages.
Group chat is fairly simple, although not compared with a software alternative such as Skype. Yackpack is similar to using walkie-talkies or a push-to-talk enabled mobile phone--it's turn-based instead of real-time chatter. This could be a problem in a real brainstorming situation where you can't just jut in with your ideas, and you also might be unable to click the talk button if you're doing something else on your computer.
What might be Yackpack's coolest feature is its ability to embed on Web sites or blogs. Below I've added our Webware tester. Yackpack requires registration, but keep in mind you're providing them with a way to let you know when you've received messages from other users. We've also set up a Yackcast, which is an open channel anyone can listen to.
Yackpack is pretty neat, but not without its caveats. If you're used to Skype's no-nonsense group chat, you're likely to hate the need to click a button while talking. On the other hand, getting a bunch of people to install an application to talk can be a pain, which is where embedding makes Yackpack really neat. The fact you can do it for free is even better.
Update: Looks like our embed is having some issues. Sorry folks.
Update x2: And we're back up thanks to the devs at Yackpack.