The Best Free All-In-One Instant Messenger: Digsby (And a Brief History)
Your brother is on AOL instant messenger, your cousin uses MSN instant messenger. Your buddy is a die-hard GoogleTalk user while everyone else is crazy about Facebook talk. And now that Twitter is gaining a foothold you are about to go insane!
Deep Breath. One, free application is here to save the day.
I have been using instant messaging since it was born in 1996 – I have a 7 digit ICQ number. ICQ is an instant messaging computer program, which was first developed by the Israeli company Mirabilis, now owned by Time Warner’s AOL subsidiary.[Wikipedia]
ICQ was brilliant in it’s simplicity – you could see when your friends and family around the world came online. Keep in mind this was the time of Dial-Up! To be able to talk to family on the East Coast of the United States while I was living time zones away in Hawaii was fantastic!
Well of course Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft all saw the potential and started creating their own instant messenger programs, however, unlike email or web pages there was no communication standard agreed upon – so there was no software interoperability. MSN couldn’t talk to AOL, AOL couldn’t talk to ICQ, etc. This is still the case to this day – there is no universal instant messaging standard but inroads have been made.
The second major problem was feature overload. All I want to do is see my brother pop online, say hello, maybe send a photo or a file. Simplicity. ICQ started adding advertisements, games, FTP servers, and other bloat as did the other major players. Flashing lights and shaking screens took instant messaging from a serene, zen-like walk in a park experience to the county fair on crack and acid.
One of the early pioneers in IM interoperability was Cerulean Studio’s Trillian. They are still around today and have a pretty dedicated following but the service costs about $25 to get started and it has to be renewed for upgrades: “A license to Trillian™ Pro costs $25.00 entitling you to unlimited use of the version of Trillian™ Pro you purchased along with one year (i.e., 365 days) of support and upgrades as set forth below.”
So how do we get free software that let’s us talk to multiple IM clients? A super-simple online option is Meebo but you need to be logged into the website to use it.
For a while the best deal in town was GAIM:
Pidgin (formerly called GAIM) is a chat program which lets you log in to accounts on multiple chat networks simultaneously. This means that you can be chatting with friends on MSN, talking to a friend on Google Talk, and sitting in a Yahoo chat room all at the same time.
I loved pidgin, used it religiously, until I discovered Digsby.
Wakoopa, a social network centered around what software people use, has named Digsby the Best New App of 2008. It does 3 things and it does them well: Instant messaging, eMail and Social Networking.
Digsby is a multiprotocol IM client that lets you chat with all your friends on AIM, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, Google Talk, and Jabber with one simple to manage buddy list. One combined buddy list for all your AIM, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, Google Talk, Jabber, and Facebook Chat Accounts.
Digsby is an email notification tool that alerts you of new email and lets you perform actions such as ‘Delete’ or ‘Report Spam’ with just one click. Manage your Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL/AIM Mail, IMAP, and POP accounts right from digsby.
And Digsby is a social networking tool that alerts you of events like new messages and gives you a live Newsfeed of what your friends are up to. Manage your Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL/AIM Mail, IMAP, and POP accounts right from digsby. Stay up to date with everything happening on your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn accounts.
Now with any of these multiple IM programs one think to take into consideration is that you need accounts at the various services (AIM, YAHOO, MSN, Etc.) I won’t go into detail on how to set up each individual account but I will give you two settings for Digsby that change the way it looks:
Tools –> Preferences –> Accounts:
This keeps a lot of icons out of your task tray. Simplicity!
Next, Tools –> Preferences –> Buddy Lists:
This will create a crisp, clean interface. I blurred the image because I don’t need 2,000 of my new closest friends IM’ing me. But you can see groups like Family and Friends, the icon on the left shows what IM network they are using. The blue one is Facebook, the butterfly is MSN, the smiley face AIM. The Green, Yellow and Red balls to the right indicate the user’s status.
Towards the bottom of the above image, the four gray lines are email accounts that have no mail waiting to be read – Google, Yahoo, MSN and another Google account. Below that we have Facebook, two MySpace accounts, two Twitter accounts and LinkedIn.
Simplicity. Love It!
Hey Mac users! A mac version is in the works, until then I don’t want you to think I forgot you:
Check Out Adium for Mac. Adium is a free instant messaging application for Mac OS X that can connect to AIM, MSN, Jabber, Yahoo, and more.