Instant Messaging Solutions for Linux

By | July 7, 2009

Google Talk

Google Talk represents a very popular instant messaging service provided by well-known Google Inc. The first version of Google Talk appeared in August 2005. It uses an open protocol – XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol).

Though there is a web-based application of Google Talk many users like to have an installable version, probably because it’s more functional and represents a usual IM client. Unfortunately Google Talk itself is available just for Windows, so users have to install other XMPP clients which are compatible with Google Talk in order to be able to use it on Linux OS.

As for the main features of GTalk here are the ones which should be emphasized:

  • Integration: since February 2006 Gmail users have the opportunity to use GTalk within a browser with no need to install it. In addition to that all the conversations are saved to Chats folder in the user’s Gmail account
  • Voice and video chat: given feature is available for Gmail and GTalk users, but it requires a plugin to be downloaded and installed. Unfortunately this feature is not supported in Linux yet.
  • Encryption: in case of using GTalk client (and some XMPP clients) the connection between the client and Google Talk server is encrypted.
  • Offline Messaging: users can send messages to the recipients even if the last ones are not signed in
  • Voicemail and file sending: voicemail messages can be 10 minutes long, and they’re delivered to the mailbox as an attached MP3 file and etc.

One of the main disadvantages of GTalk is considered to be privacy issues. Some alternative clients (for example, Pidgin) permit more privacy controls that GTalk; though it cannot be regarded as an advantage for Google Talk itself, it’s a really great thing for the ones who would like to use Linux.

It was announced that in the future the developers will try to make Google Talk users able to communicate with Skype. In case they will be able to do so, it will boost the popularity of both clients.

As regards commonly used alternative clients for Linux here they are:

  • Gajim: a nice and easy-to-use Jabber client
  • Gossip: an instant messaging client for GNOME desktop environment
  • Kopete
  • Spark: an Open Source, cross-platform IM client optimized for businesses and organizations
  • Pidgin
  • Sim-IM


Skype is an extremely popular instant messaging service which is frequently used to make telephone calls over the Internet. It uses its own Skype protocol that has not been made publicly available. Though it was first release in August 2003 (not even six years ago) at the moment there are almost 450 million user accounts.

Skype gives its users opportunity to call to landlines and mobile phones for a fee. Moreover users are able to receive calls on their computers dialed by regular phone subscribers to a local Skype phone number; though this function is not available for all countries.

In addition to that Skype has a lot of different features you may need, including file transfer, audio and video conferencing and etc. The latest version of Skype supports audio conferences of up to 25 people at a time, including the host.

As regards the video conferencing it appeared in January 2006, but just for Windows and MacOS. Despite the fact that after two years Linux users were able to use this feature as well, at the moment it seems that video conferencing is no longer available on Linux version of Skype. Hopefully in some time this feature will appear again.

In comparison with other Instant messaging services Skype doesn’t have any alternative clients, the fact that some users may not like. However it has versions for all the popular OS and mobile devices: Windows, MacOS, Linux, Windows Mobile, Symbian OS, iPhone OS, mobile phones supporting Java, PSP, 3 Skypephone (BREW OS) and many others. Thus every single user can choose the way to communicate via Skype he/she likes the most.

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