Taking a cue from the Russian phenom, Jibblar (authored by Peter Nicholls, an Australia-based developer) is a bare-bones site that does one thing well: it allows people in close proximity to anonymously contribute to a chat room. Jibblar grabs your location from the Firefox or iPhone browser and will only facilitate conversation with people in your immediate vicinity (according to Nicholls the range is 0.5 kilometers). The only identifier is your location tag (which you can either pick from the list of options or create a new one if it doesn’t exist) and a randomly assigned number that appears next to your chat.
The site is thin on details (it’s literally one page with a title, chat stream and a sprinkling of text on the right hand side) but it does clarify that a “jib” is their term for chat room and it is most common in schools, universities and pubs. Don’t get me wrong, I love simplicity, but this brand of simplicity breeds confusion by dropping you into several streams of conversation. To quote their site, “WTF?”
When I first tried to use it in downtown Palo Alto, there was one location tag in the chat stream: “LJ Hooker.” The chat itself was just jibberish, with random f-bombs and strange declaratives (“I’m retiring,” “need to get myself a new job,”). Theoretically, this could work well in a pub or at a university—- if you got a critical mass— but I imagine many chats will look like a car crash of phrases, expletives and general confusion. Then again, maybe that’s the point. For example this:
Nicholls was inspired by Chatroulette. After designing Jibblar, he went to a local pub and handed out pieces of paper with the link “Jibblar.com.” He says within an hour, 20 or 30 people in various states of intoxication were using the service, yielding amusing results. Nicholls admits the service is far from perfect. The iPhone version seems to work fine but there are several, major bugs on the Firefox version at the time of this post (namely, you can’t input text (!) and there are no randomly assigned numbers identifying the users, raising the degree of confusion).
As for a grand plan, Nicholls doesn’t have one. He could see it catching on at schools or in the workplace, any place where gossip thrives, but he’s willing to let the users decide. “I just want to put it out there, give it to as many people as possible,” he says. There’s only one thing that he’s adamant about: its simplicity. “You’re never going to see a sign-up, you’ll always be able to just open it up and chat.” While I could be wrong, I don’t think Jibblar is going to reach Twitter or even Chatroulette proportions, but I have to give Nicholls credit for highlighting the importance of geo-based chat and trying (B+ for effort) to create something dead simple to use.
Update: After our chat, Nicholls took down the Firefox function. He just won bonus points for being a fast adapter.