Multi-Protocol Instant Messaging Clients

September 8, 2009

That’s a mouthfull, isn’t it?

Instant Messaging (IM) is kind of like cell phone text messaging for your computer. Actually, instant messaging was around before text messaging, but I digress. In case you haven’t used either, it’s a way to type messages back and forth in real time. Today’s IM clients do more than that, however. They support voice and video as well. Of course, for voice you need a microphone and for video you need a web camera.

In order to instant message with someone, you have to have an instant messaging client. Some popular instant messaging clients include Yahoo Instant Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Windows Live Messenger, ICQ, IRC, GoogleTalk, MySpace IM, Facebook Chat, and more. There are loads of them. I found a list that listed over 80 IM clients.

For this to work, you have to have the IM client installed on your computer. Anyone you want to chat with using IM needs to have the same IM client installed. Next, you each need a free account for that IM service and you both have to be on the internet and signed into the IM client. Then you have to be on each other’s friend or buddy list.

Once you have all of that set, you can instant message each other. The problem is that one friend has Yahoo Instant Messenger, another has AIM, yet another is on GoogleTalk, and so forth. You don’t want to have to install a bunch of different instant messaging clients. That will be messy and slow your computer down. What you need is one instant messaging client that will allow you to talk to all your friends, no matter which instant messaging client they are using.

Ask and you will receive. What you need is a multi-protocol instant messaging client. And there are a lot of them out there. Some are free and some cost money. Some have a paid version and a free version that has limited features. For the purposes of this article, I will limit the list to free versions only. Here are the 5 most popular multi-protocol instant messaging clients in no particular order.

Trillian – ceruleanstudios.com
Miranda – miranda-im.org
Pidgin – pidgin.im
Digsby – digsby.com
Meebo – meebo.com

Note that all of these don’t support all of the same instant messaging protocols. So the first thing you should do is know which instant messaging protocols you want to be able to use. Find out which instant messaging clients your friends use. Make a list. Then go to each of these websites and make sure it supports all of the instant messaging protocols you need. Once you have the list of possible instant messaging clients, download them, install them, and give them a try. They are all different, so play with them and pick the one you like. If you don’t like it try another one.

I’ll tell you right now, I have not tried all of these. The list above is not a list of the 5 best IM clients, it’s the list of the most popular. Most popular does not equal best. I have used Trillian for many years and have been very happy with it. If you want more information, just do a search for “multi-protocol instant messaging clients” and prepare to be overwhelmed.

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