Find like minds. Pick up passengers. Give directions. Leave a mark.
So reads the banner at the top of Odigo (http://www.odigo.com/), home of NovaWiz's free new messaging, directory, chat and community-building tool. Odigo is hard to sum up in a few words, but definitely worth checking out.
At first glance, Odigo falls into the same basic category as instant messaging tools like ICQ and Yahoo Messenger. Once you've downloaded the rather large (4.8MB) Odigo client and registered as a user, you can send messages to other Odigo users, or participate in real-time chat.
Take a closer look though, and Odigo also looks like a Web directory, divvying up the Internet into ten generic categories (such as Computers and Internet, and Recreation and Hobbies), with hundreds of subheadings listing relevant Web sites.
What makes Odigo unique is the way it integrates these disparate features. You can find chat partners by searching for a given interest, then go to a corresponding Web site. Once you're there, the Odigo console shows you which users are also visiting that site. This way, if you decide you want to chat, you know that your chat partner is actively involved with your Web site's topic, be it pro wrestling or perennials.
You can also get more specific about whom you want to meet. Not only can you search by interest, but also by users' personal details; for example, age, gender, location, mood, astrological sign or "intention" -- the reason they want to chat. You don't have to supply these details, but Odigo points out that you will have more fun if you do.
If you just want to go where the masses are, check out Odigo's real-time graph of the most popular sites. Other Odigo features include posting notes to a Web site that only other Odigo users can read; creating buddy lists; and sending e-mail and files.
Odigo's overall feel is fun, not particularly professional. Odigo users choose hip little icons to depict themselves along with their screen names, and a nonscientific sample of people's intentions revealed that most people were simply interested in meeting new friends, rather than exchanging professional information. That's terrific.
Odigo users certainly are an open bunch. In just a few hours, I chatted with a single Canadian mom, a Macedonian tattoo artist and a teenage boy interested in mysticism. Wow!
I was also impressed by the actual Odigo client, which packs a lot of features into a small, slick mini application that lives in your Windows system tray.
I did notice a few glitches that might be considered bugs, and performance can get a bit sluggish, but all in all, everything worked as expected.
In the company's press release, NovaWiz's President Shai Buber says, "We hope people will stop reading this press release and try Odigo because it's much more interesting than anything we can say about it."
I couldn't agree more.