Remember the good old days where your friends and family all had to use the same instant messaging service or you had to have several open at once? These were the days before everyone decided “Oh AIM is better than Yahoo” or “I prefer Windows Live over AIM” and “AIM and Live blow, Yahoo for life.” Okay, no one ever said “Yahoo for life” or picked Yahoo’s IM over both AIM and Windows Live—now Skype. I only use Yahoo for roughly two people who still use it. There’s also Google’s messaging system as well and several others that are popular regionally in various countries.
It’s gotten crazy how IMs have exploded from having either ICQ or Yahoo Messenger. There was actually a point in time where those two—and later MSN—were all you needed and your friends and family usually huddled on Yahoo or MSN if they were using the internet in say the mid-1990s. ICQ was more for users “in the know” and for hobbyists. It was kind of like Yahoo Chat, but slightly less creepy.
However, even today all of this is difficult to keep up with if you have friends who still insist on using multiple IM services. Sure, it makes them easier to catch online since some they might use for specific reasons, others they might just use more than others, and others they might not use at all. Plus everyone has a preferred IM service. Now there are so many to remember and sign into it’s gotten tedious.
Here’s the thing though, no one’s had to sign into individual IM accounts and have several applications open for awhile. Since the late 2000s there have been several applications that are all-in-one IM services. This means you can sign with a master account, add your IM accounts and chat with everyone on different IM services at the same time.
“What otherworldly sorcery is this?!” Check out five of the best IM multiprotocol IM clients. All listed are also multilingual and allow for file sharing to some degree.
Digsby hits the trifecta of IM, email, and social networks and you can pretty much do everything you’d expect you can do from those sites and clients within the Digsby client. You can add all your accounts and social networks—even the largely defunct ones that no one actually uses—and simply communicate within Digsby. It does feature video/audio chat which is a plus and pretty much standard for IM clients now.
Since it’s a downloadable app, it pretty much rests in your toolbar while you’re doing other things like work, surfing, or whatever so it’s never in the way of tab browsing and won’t freeze your browser up. As most messengers do, there are pop-up notifications for when someone signs in/out, new messages, new emails, and account connection errors. You can turn one or all accounts off or make yourself invisible on one or all of them. For those of us who enjoy our emoticons, you can find emoticon packs for your favorite IM and use them in Digsby. If you want a widget for your blog or site Digsby got you covered there as well.
Out of the IM clients that will be mentioned here, Digsby has the best interface. It’s sleek, doesn’t look outdated, and customizable, no well-organized. The only downside is that there isn’t a mobile app or browser version of Digsby. Other than that, it’s one of the best—if not the best—multi-IM client to use.
You can snag Digsby here.
Meebo became a part of Google+ in the summer of 2012 when the company was purchased by the software giant. What made Meebo worth getting was that it was simple to use and didn’t have a complicated interface. At times it could be buggy, but was still extremely functional. Meebo was largely browser based and featured something in the way of video and audio chat. Meebo would go on to make a apps for iOS and Android OS, but I’ve never heard how functional those were.
One of things Meebo was best known for—and maybe infamously known for—was the Meebo Bar. Depending on how you used it and what you used it for, it was either extremely helpful or a tremendous bother. For me, it was extremely helpful. The Bar would sit at the bottom of your browser and work in the same way as browser/tab-based Meebo. That’s all it did. When you got a new message, a tab in the Bar would light up and you could answer it from there. It was extremely handy on a site such as Justin TV. On the other hand, if a site already had a method of chat—such as Justin TV’s sidebar next to the streaming video—the Meebo Bar could be a bother. Also, there’s just a general disdain for these kinds of bars on a site.
As stated above, Meebo became a part of Google+ and ended their services in 2012. Meebo Bar will be ended next week.
There are some who really enjoy eBuddy and there are some who really can’t stand it. I’m in the middle of the road between the two groups, but more towards “can’t stand it”. The good thing about eBuddy is that it’s simple to use and not only is it browser-based, but it has apps on iOS and Android OS. Now thes smartphone versions of eBuddy—as well as their XMS text messenger—are both very good. It’s the web browser that is a bit on the frustrating side. It can be rather buggy at times making it a hassle to use, but when it works it works well. The smartphone versions are very solid, though. No problem there. Another good thing about eBuddy is that you don’t need to sign up a master account, but it would help if you did to juggle all of your accounts.
As far as cosmetic appeal, there are a few themes for eBuddy and it uses the basic emoticons from whatever IM service you’re using. The browser based version of eBuddy is kind of a beast. It just sports a pretty ugly interface. Functional, but ugly. The smartphone—and mobile for that matter—versions are sleek enough.
eBuddy can be found at their official site. If you want the functionality of Meebo and Digsby without the flash of Digsby, go with eBuddy—or the next one in our list.
Imo—along with Digsby—is my favorite multi-IM client. Its browser based, doesn’t get in the way of anything really, and is simplistic. There’s a variety of IM services it supports and there is smartphone support. There isn’t really much to go into when it comes to Imo as it is pretty much a sleeker version of eBuddy and does all of the same things. Imo isn’t without its own bugginess mainly in the form of not being able to reach servers. Other than that, it’s good, dependable client. You just sign up a master account to juggle multiple accounts. You can also use one IM account if you wish. Imo can be found here.
Pidgin is an old, gray-haired multiple IM client from 1998 that is still in use today. It supports many chat protocols and is desktop program. There’s no smartphone or browser version for Pidgin. It’s fairly basic, nothing particularly complicated about it. If you took Digsby sans the visual appeal and put it with either Imo or eBuddy you’d get Pidgin. The important thing is that its functional and gets the main job done—using multiple IM clients at once. As is standard with the IM services it allows, Pidgin features video/audio chat as well. There are a variety of other multiplatform IM clients based on Pidgin such as Instantbird for PC and Adium for Mac OS X.
You can snag Pidgin here.
There are several other multiplatform IM clients floating about out there. Some are effective at what they do while other could use some work, but still have a fairly loyal base anyways. You could say that with something such as Skype, everyone could get on board there as it has video and audio chat as well as IM chat, however there are still those of us out there who just can’t drop their IM standbys. Some are so loyal to an IM service that it’s unlikely they’ll stop using it even when the userbase starts to dry up.
What are some of your favorite IM services and what multiplatform IM clients do you use?