Thursday, January 7, 2010

Universal IM Clients

To ease communication between developers while traveling, we are all using Yahoo! Messenger. While some people on our project already had accounts, I did not, thus when I created a new account I had a list of 3 contacts. Many of my other fellow work colleges use Google Talk, so if I wanted to communicate with them about best practices, or any other work related jabber, it was necessary for me to have to clients open. For some people this wouldn't be a problem, but for me it was a huge distraction. Enter Universal IM Clients. Old news to some, for me this revolutionary technology negated the need for me to have numerous blinking windows on my already busy monitor. I currently am running Pidgin, which I discovered today is rated the 2nd Best Universal Chat Client.

I know this is not the only solution available, and I'd be welcome in hearing about more technologies that help serve this purpose. Always looking for the best technology to solve problems! (Even though I'm using the 2nd best. )

-Brandy Brewster


  1. I used to use a universal IM client, but I began to be fond of Google's Gmail chat client, which for now only supports chatting to XMPP and AIM contacts.

    XMPP (the protocol used by Google Talk) supports the idea of a "transport server." You can register the transport server with your XMPP account and it will create a bridge for you to another chat network. Using this, you can chat with contacts from other networks like Windows Live and Yahoo, using the chat client built into the Gmail interface. This is kind of nifty because then all of your chat logs will be stored in your Gmail or Google Apps account.

    A few ways to go about this:

    * Find a public transport server that supports the network you want to bridge to. (You have to use an XMPP client like Psi to register with the transport, but that's a one time thing --- once it's done, you can do all of your chatting from the Gmail interface.)

    * Set up your own XMPP server and install the transport services yourself. There is a collection of transports written in Python that work with most XMPP servers.

    * Soon, Kraken ( should support running as an XMPP service so you should be able to use it rather than the Python transports. Kraken is written in Java and is a bit more reliable, but at the moment it only works as an Openfire plug-in (Openfire is an XMPP server), and because of how it works, you can only transport from XMPP accounts on the Openfire server (i.e. you can't set up a transport from a Google account to some other chat network).

    Yeah, it's a little more geeky than using a regular all-in-one client. But the result is pretty cool if you are a big Gmail user, or if your company has deployed Google Apps.

  2. Another option would be to use a Meebo Room.

    One thing to consider is encryption - don't know if there's anything "sensitive" in your projects. Most of the universal IM clients (pidgin, adium, etc) can encrypt across any of the IM networks, but you presumably have to be running the same IM client program. A Meebo Room *might* use SSL or some other encryption - I'm not sure.


  3. I don't personally use universal IM clients. I actually use about 4 different ones, but my communications often extend beyond IM as well. I use social networks quite a bit because you can carry on a conversation over a long period of time like IM, but the conversation is publicly or privately archived so you can refer to previous correspondance from a week, month or year ago.

    My personal favorite social network for internal communications is Yammer. Its like Twitter, but for internal purposes.

  4. I've been using pidgin for a little while now, and it's been an easy way to chat with my AIM and Google Chat contacts whether I'm on Windows or Linux.