Wibiya goes public and its toolbar gets a massive upgrade.If you’re a regular reader, you will have noticed the toolbar running across the bottom of the site. The toolbar is created by a relatively new Israel based start up called Wibiya, committed to creating a multi-functional toolbar that pleases both publishers and readers alike.

Initially Wibiya launched with a small but well designed selection of built in “apps” into its toolbar including recent posts, sharing options, Facebook fan page and Twitter functionality. Today, after months of work and partnership negotiations, Wibiya is available to the public, releasing a major upgrade and announcing its “application bank” (app store) with deep YouTube, Flickr, TinyChat integration, Real Time Visitor statistics and more.

The release is timely as competitors Meebo have recently upgraded their own toolbar’s feature set as well as announcing public availability, but Wibiya’s decision to partner with specialist web applications and integrating them into its bar might just prove to be its winning formula.

Co-founder Dror Cedar has stressed to me that this is merely the very beginning and users should expect regular major new releases over the coming weeks. He’s shared a few of them, and they are indeed exciting, but I am obligated to keep schtum.

My first impressions with the Wibiya bar are largely positive. There are customization options aplenty within each app but also across the bar itself. For example, you can choose your own icons for particular apps but you can now adjust application placement, so if you’d like the search field to the right rather than the left, you can do that. The applications included are all very well designed and custom built for the bar so they “feel” like they belong there.

Picture 382 1024x539 Wibiya goes public and its toolbar gets a massive upgrade.

The chat app from TinyChat is very cool, as you would expect, but if there’s one downfall is that it does take up a rather large amount of screen real-estate making it difficult to browse the site and chat at the same time. Wibiya and TinyChat have included one particularly awesome feature however, one that makes it possible to create chat rooms just for specific posts, for big stories this is something many publishers including ourselves will adore.

Alongside the original Twitter dashboard app, Wibiya have added a new Twitter implementation which makes it possible to view the sites twitter stream and follow without having to leave the site itself, you can of course also tweet from the site too and invite others to visit.

All in all, the upgrade is going to please publishers and readers alike. Retention is clearly a priority for any publisher and the new apps all pay careful attention to this. While apps like “recent posts” and “sharing tool” will drive extra traffic.

For readers, the added functionality should make it easier than ever to find relevant information or just make for a more enjoyable browsing experience. Finally, chat-room, Twitter and Facebook functionality will make connecting with other readers around a story easy as pie.

To upgrade or signup visit Wibiya.com and follow the instructions.