Instant Messaging Solutions for Linux

By | July 7, 2009

Yahoo! Messenger

Yahoo! Messenger being launched in March 1998 (under the name Yahoo! Pager) is one of the first instant messaging services. It uses its own protocol provided by Yahoo. Yahoo! ID is used to access Yahoo! Messenger and other Yahoo! Services.

In addition to the instant messaging it offers PC to PC, PC to Phone and Phone to PC service (Yahoo! Voice), file transfers, voicemail, chat rooms, address book integration, webcam hosting, offline messaging, custom status messages and etc. Moreover with the appearance of Yahoo! Messenger 8.0 the ability to create custom plug-ins was added.

Another nice feature of Yahoo! is interoperability with Windows Live Messenger launched in July 2006. It gives the users of these services to communicate to each other without the need to create an extra account. At the moment they have really functional interoperability allowing even the voice service among both messengers.

As far as the criticism of Yahoo! Messenger is concerned among the delivering of malicious software such as spyware, viruses, worms, and trojans to unsuspecting computer users, another very important problem consists in the fact that Yahoo! Messenger users are subject to unsolicited messages (SPIM – spam intending users of instant messaging services). Though it is said that Yahoo is working to resolve the problem (Yahoo has introduced a CAPTCHA system to help filter out bots from joining chat rooms), it still remains to be unresolved.

For justice’ sake it should be emphasized that Yahoo! is not the only IM service that has problems with malicious software; Windows Live Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and others have the same problem as well.

Although there is a version of Yahoo! Messenger for Linux OS, generally Linux users install alternative clients, especially the ones which support multiple protocols. Let’s see what the most popular of these clients are:

  • Pidgin
  • Qnext
  • Kopete
  • Sim-IM

Windows Live Messenger

Windows Live Messenger, generally known as MSN because its first release in July 1999 was named MSN Messenger, is a Microsoft instant messaging client which uses the Microsoft Notification Protocol (MSNP). Since 2005 it became the part of Microsoft’s Windows Live, the service which attracts over 330 million users each month.

Being a very popular instant messaging client Windows Live Messenger possesses a lot of different features, among which the following ones should be mentioned:

  • Interoperability: Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Live Messenger users can chat to each other without necessity to create other accounts (we’ve already emphasized this fact while talking about Yahoo! Messenger)
  • Sharing Folders: when a file is added to a “sharing folder”, it is automatically transferred to the corresponding computer when the user is online. The nice thing about this feature is that the receiving part doesn’t have to be online when the file is transferred (like in Skype, for instance)
  • File scanning: Windows Live OneCare Safety Scanner, a free online virus scanner from Microsoft, is a well-integrated virus scanner for use with Windows Live Messenger.
  • Offline messaging
  • PC to Phone calls: Windows Live Call service
  • S60 platform and Xbox integration

Just as in many cases the default application does not have a Linux version (in fact it’s understandable even from the name of the client), so there is a necessity to use different alternative clients in order to be able to communicate with the users of MSN accounts. Fortunately there are pretty decent counterparts to choose from:

  • aMSN: a free Windows Live Messenger clone
  • Kmess: a Windows Live Messenger alternative chat client for Linux
  • Emesene: an open source instant messaging client designed for use with Microsoft’s .NET messenger service.
  • Kopete
  • Mercury Messenger: a Windows Live Messenger network Instant Messaging client developed in Java
  • Pidgin

AOL Instant Messenger

AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is an instant messaging client which uses OSCAR instant messaging protocol (the same as ICQ). It was released by America Online in May 1997. Nowadays it’s the most popular instant messaging client in US – more than 50% of users. Unlike many other IM services AIM default client is available for all major platforms (Windows, MacOS and Linux).

One of the major differences between AIM and other clients is that the first one does not require approval from one buddy (user) to be added to another’s buddy list. That’s why users can have other unsuspecting buddies on their list to see when they are online, read their status and their profiles. Still a buddy can block any user by selecting a menu option allowing communication only with the ones who are on the list.

Another thing users have to take into account is the terminology used in AIM which significantly differs from the one you may encounter in other instant messaging clients. Here are some of the terms you may find to be useful to know: away message, screen name (user name), buddy info, direct connection, rate limiting and etc.

As in case of MSN and Yahoo! AIM also has a browser-based application – AIM Express. Its main purpose is to give people the opportunity to use AIM even if they don’t have a standalone application installed. AIM Express supports just the basic features lacking file transfer, audio chat and video conferencing.

As for the alternative clients used on Linux the following ones are the most popular:

  • Pidgin
  • Empathy: an instant messaging client which supports text, voice, video, file transfers, and inter-application communication over many different protocols
  • Kopete
  • Instantbird: an open source instant messenger created by the software developers of Pidgin
  • Sim-IM

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