While (unsuccessfully) trying to download Microsoft’s Silverlight for Firefox this afternoon, I restarted the browser to find a blurb about Firefox’s new Hello on the home page. Hello is apparently a new instant messaging service by Mozilla in which users can message or video chat other users and friends without having to leave the window or tab they’re currently viewing. In theory, this is a pretty decent idea. Most people using Firefox would use Facebook to talk with friends while using the computer. So instead of having to switch back and forth between tabs while perusing the web, Mozilla is now offering a convenient alternative to our traditional and popular forms for online messaging.
I really like the idea behind this new service, but I don’t think it will ever get any traction. It will be the little things that keep people from using or trying it. First of all, you need a separate Firefox account — I downloaded Firefox around three years ago because it was required to fill out my online housing form to live on campus. I’ve been using it pretty much ever since because it seemed faster than Safari, but never have I thought of it, nor Mozilla, as more than a browser, and never has it been necessary for me to have a Firefox account. Google Chrome is lucky — they have the brand association with Google, and therefore Gmail, which has hundreds of millions of users around the world. Years ago, Google Talk was made up of small windows that cluttered the screen or got lost behind larger windows. In May 2013, Google stopped Google Talk in order to promote its newer Google+ Hangouts. If Google were to incorporate a function like Hello into, say, a side column embedded in Chrome’s browser and linked to Gmail accounts, its product could actually stand a chance considering Chrome is currently the most popular web browser in the US.
As for the video chatting side of Hello, Skype pretty much has this covered. The application is free and allows users to leave the Skype window to do anything else on their computer, while still being able to see those you’re chatting in a small window that can be moved around or hidden. Skype is arguably the most popular form of video communication, especially because Facebook conducts its video chats through Skype, as well. I see no reason for these users to jump ship for a new video chat service only available in Firefox, which is only the fourth most used browser in the US, coming in after Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari.
The marketplace for easy, convenient online chatting is growing and ever-changing. Other platforms like Hello have been cropping up and have already tried to establish themselves as front-runners, like Kik, Google+ Hangout and Tango, but don’t ever stand a chance to the industry giants like Facebook and even Snapchat, unique in that it’s maintained popularity but can only be used between smartphones and tablets. I think it’s safe to say we’ll be saying good bye to Hello pretty soon — Mozilla has given us little innovation since introducing Firefox to keep our attention, Firefox use has been steadily declining since 2010 and the features of Hello in terms of accessibility won’t outweigh the established popularity and clout of Facebook in the online messaging realm.