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5 Great Instant Messenger Aggregators Across Multiple Platforms

ince the proliferation of the Internet, instant messaging (IMing from here on in) has become a very popular means of communicating on the Web. Even with the rapid growth of Twitter, many people still communicate using IM.  Now, there is no shortage of IM protocols out there; these include ICQ, AIM, GTalk, Yahoo, and Facebook, to name a few. IM aggregators aim to solve the mess of having all these programs open at once.

Here is where it gets complicated. Depending on whether you’re on the web, Windows, Mac, or a mobile device, there are a number of aggregators from which to choose. To help you figure things out, here are five great instant messenger aggregators for multiple platforms.

Have another aggregator you’d add to this list? Tell us about it in the comments.

1. Windows When it comes to IMing in Windows, the possibilities are endless. With all the available options, there is one program that just offers more than the rest: Digsby. Digsby offers users a wide variety of protocols that include AIM, MSN, Yahoo, GTalk, Jabber, and Facebook chat. However, the innovative genius of Digsby does not stop there. Digsby recently included Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace feeds in the client as well. As if that wasn’t enough to make it the ultimate application, you can get your multiple email accounts, including Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL/AIM Mail, IMAP, and POP in there too.

digsbyThis all may sound a little overwhelming and complicated, but it’s not; Digsby could not be more user-friendly. You have an icon in your taskbar for whatever network/IM/email account you configure, and you receive popup notifications for that account according to a predefined user preference. It’s as simple as that.

Benefits: The popup notifications are a snapshot of your email, tweet, or IM, and you can respond from within the popup, as opposed to opening the entire application window. Additionally, there are IM aliases, tabbed IMing, the ability to send SMS messages directly from the IM window, and much more.

So, what are the downsides? Well, I can only think of one; no Mac version. The service is planning a Mac version, but there is no ETA on its release.

A good alternative to Digsby is: Pidgin, which supports AIM, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, GTalk, Groupwise, ICQ, IRC, MSN, MySpaceIM, QQ, SILC, SIMPLE, Sametime, XMPP, Yahoo, Zephy. Pidgin also has a Linux version.

2. Mac Adium does a good job of giving you all your buddy lists in a nice and simple interface. The networks it supports include AIM, MSN, Yahoo, GTalk, ICQ, Jabber, MobileMe, Bonjour, MySpace IM,  Facebook chat, Lotus Sametime, Novell Groupwise, QQ, and Gadu-Gadu. So, unless you are on some really small and unheard of network, Adium pretty much has you covered.

adiumAspects that could use tweaking: Adium could be a lot more user-friendly. There are endless preferences in the Adium menu and you can fully customize its look, yet somehow, the most basic options, like viewing all your contacts in separate lists by protocol, are difficult to find. All in all, unless you are a details junkie like me, Adium will serve you loyally.

A good alternative to Adium is: iChat, the built-in Mac OS client, which supports .Mac, AIM, Jabber, and GTalk.

3. Web When it comes to IM on the Web, the concept is to be able to communicate with your various lists without the need to do any downloading. This is a great choice for those who are unable to download an aggregator at their workplace. When it comes to Web-based IM, Meebo is a simple, straightforward, and useful tool. The site offers you the ability to sign into your AIM, MSN, GTalk, ICQ, Yahoo, Facebook Chat, MySpace, Jabber, and Flixter accounts, without the need to download any software. You can log into each of these individually, or sign up for Meebo and log in to all automatically.

meeboBenefits:It is a fairly simple design, that I am pretty sure anyone, no matter how computer illiterate, could use comfortably.

A good alternative to Meebo is: radiusIM, which supports AIM, MSN, Yahoo, and GTalk.

4. Mobile With all the highly advanced mobile devices being announced daily, there are still many users who have relatively older cell phones. There is no reason these users shouldn’t have the capability to IM from their devices. Trutap is a powerful IM client that supports even the old J2ME phone infrastructure and enables users with older phones to access their IM accounts. It’s a feature-packed, simple to use, pleasant on the eyes IM client for your phone.  It supports multiple IM protocols, social networks, and blogging networks, such as Yahoo, MSN, GTalk, Facebook chat, Flickr, ICQ, Photobucket, Rediff Bol, Friendster, and Blogger.

trutapBenefits: Trutap has a great design. Each list is separated with the ability to collapse or expand it. Then you have the ability to move to another tab, which has all your open conversations in a very simple to use window.  All the standard IM options are available to you on your phone. You can add or remove a contact, edit a contact’s details, as well as set your status. All in all, another product that proves to me that less is often more.

A good alternative to Trutap is: Ebuddy, which supports MSN, Yahoo!, AIM, Gtalk, ICQ and Facebook. Ebuddy also has a web-based IM aggregator similar to Meebo and radiusIM.

5. iPhone There are so many IM apps available for the iPhone, although there is one that really stands out from the rest, in my mind.  Nimbuzz is an industry leading IM and VOIP app for mobile in general, and iPhone specifically.

nimbuzzNimbuzz offers a very wide variety of networks. The iPhone Nimbuzz client supports Skype, Yahoo! IM, AIM, GTalk, MSN, ICQ, Jabber, Facebook, MySpace, StudiVZ, Gadu Gadu, and Hyves. It has a very simplistic interface that is pure fun to use. Nimbuzz also offers a wide landscape keyboard for the iPhone, making the IMing experience so much more enjoyable.

Benefits: The interface has 5 tabs: Contacts, Chats, Communities, Messages, and Settings. Could it be any more straightforward?  Another thing that’s great about Nimbuzz is their will to stay above their competition. They are always improving their software, which is why they have accomplished so much as a company. Nimbuzz recently signed a deal with Toshiba to have their software preinstalled on all of Toshiba’s new TG01 devices, which is the company’s flagship handset.

A good alternative to Nimbuzz is: Fring, which supports Skype, MSN, Facebook, Gmail, GTalk, ICQ, SIP, Last.fm, Twitter, Yahoo, and AIM.

What’s your IM aggregator of choice? It does not matter if you are a “Mac or PC,” iPhone user or Symbian fan, you should have no problem combining your various IM networks into one user-friendly and feature-rich IM aggregator. Tell us about your IM aggregator of choice and why it’s your favorite.

More instant messaging resources:

- 70+ Free iPhone Apps for Social Media Mavens
- Instant Messaging Toolbox: 90+ IM Tools
- 9 Cool Instant Messaging Tools

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Ayzek

2009-03-02 14:02:06


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