Meetro is a small program that brings together instant messaging and localization to let you see and get in touch with others near you. Next week, Meetro will get several new localization tools packaged into their home console, or what is basically an information page with services you can open up within the program. The biggest is a Google map in the corner that shows you local restaurants and bars within walking distance of your location. Clicking a restaurant name will pull up some basic info and highlight it on the map. Clicking the name again will take you right to a Yahoo Local info page with the address, the phone number, and user reviews. We'd like to see the links go to a more extensive review site than Yahoo local, like Yelp or Citysearch--or better yet, let the users pick their favorite site to use. In our test for downtown San Francisco, the map missed some usual haunts, but it also showed us some new spots.
The other update includes a local weather widget and a small group of Flickr pictures that have been geographically tagged for your area. We would have liked to see the weather in the buddy list header, but the landing page is the new place for all your local information, so that's where it fits. The new local photo feature keeps it simple at four photos at a time. Clicking a thumbnail will take you right to the source picture on Flickr. Because the list is propagated using the geographical tags, you're more likely to end up with pictures of stuff around you instead of random junk.
Meetro's user statistics received updates as well: It now shows current and total logged-in time. This means you can find out the total time Meetro's been running. We'd like to see totals for incoming and outgoing messages, similar to what's in AIM, since those numbers are often far more interesting.
We like these updates, although they don't add too much to the chatting experience itself. If you're looking for a Web-based chatting experience, there's always Meebo (completely unrelated in namesake), but you won't get the localization features. We like that the service doesn't require adding locals to your buddy list in order to strike up a conversation. Meetro is also an impressive alternative to Trillian as a downloadable instant messenger. It simultaneously uses multiple clients like AIM, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, Google Talk, and Jabber. It's light on system resources, and there are no ads. Recommended.