It’s quite likely that if you have some sort of social account that you’ve instant messaged with before. I’d describe it as online chatting, like email with the immediacy of “txting“.
I started instant messaging when Yahoo! first integrated Y!Messenger into its so-called All-new Yahoo! Mail in 2007 (I really miss that version). It was really useful as I didn’t have to wait for people to email a reply and to make sure I refreshed my inbox so that I got it. It also wouldn’t clutter my inbox with multiple emails of the same conversation. A sound played whenever the other party sent a message, ensuring that I wouldn’t miss it.
Of course, everyone else seemed to have the Microsoft counterpart, MSN/Windows Live. That wasn’t much of a problem as Y!Messenger was able to communicate with Windows Live contacts, so long as both parties had the other added to their online lists. It worked fairly well, although features were limited.
When I got my Hotmail account, I also got access to the Windows Live Messenger service. I didn’t like Microsoft’s webmessenger because it didn’t make a noise when someone said something, but at least I would have better compatibility with MSN users. It also didn’t have message logging like Yahoo! did at the time, so I had to manually copy the conversation if I wanted to archive it. (I tend to archive everything if I can — oh, the things I find in my archives)
When I switched over to Linux, I noticed an application called Pidgin. Pidgin, formerly GAIM, is a multi-protocol desktop instant-messaging client that uses the libpurple library and GTK+. (Mac users are encouraged to use Adium instead). I liked it! It gave me the convenience of signing on to both Yahoo! and Windows Live from just one application, and chatting with contacts from both services in a single tabbed window. I could also take advantage of the features of the services that weren’t available on the webmessenger, like nudging. Even better, Pidgin logs all my chats, so I can use MSN with other MSN users without having to archive the chat manually.
Pidgin also supports a multitude of plugins. Some of the ones I really like are Psychic Mode, which shows an IM window when someone starts typing before they send their first message, pidgin-cmds, which gives me a command to send a message to all active conversations, and Music Tracker, which unobtrusively lets my contacts know what I’m listening to.
I also found another IM client called Instantbird. Instantbird uses the same libpurple backend as Pidgin and Adium, but it’s based on XUL instead of GTK+. It looks quite promising, but I think I’ll stick to Pidgin.
Even when Microsoft forced their users to use Skype, Pidgin still worked! Unfortunately, though, Microsoft will shut down the third-party API next year.
In May, I needed to communicate with a GTalk user. GTalk uses XMPP, so I got a Jabber account. Jabber is the original XMPP implementation, so I figured it would be the best choice. So far, it hasn’t given me too many problems. If I could, I’d try to persuade all my MSN and Yahoo! contacts to switch to an XMPP service, partly because it’s open and not proprietary, and also because it’s much more flexible. Even better for me, Pidgin supports XMPP, so I didn’t need a separate application to use Jabber.
That brings me to the present. What’s next in my journey with instant messaging?