Multiplicity. A huge problem when it comes to communication. We all have friends who use either multiple IM accounts or multiple IM services. This problem was tackled by desktop apps that can handle multiple protocols and accounts. But then again, we use multiple computers and mobile devices for work and personal use. Installing these desktop IM apps on a work computer may not be possible thanks to the IT team.
Unlike these desktop IM apps, online instant messengers do not require plugins or installers. Hence these web based IM apps have found a huge user base and some services are handling millions of users.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the most popular online IM apps.
Meebo is the most popular among the free online IM services and for a very good reason. Meebo is a pioneer in the web IM domain over all these years and supports an umpteen number of IM protocols. In addition to the popular services like AIM, Yahoo, MSN, GTalk, etc. Meebo also supports lesser known IM services such as Flixster, Threadsy and myyearbook.
It’s fully featured and often has more features than any of the desktop IM clients. Meebo supports file sharing, video & voice chat, invisible mode and much more. Once logged in, the interface is simple, uncluttered and does not eat up memory even when multiple chat windows are open. There is a great Firefox extension that helps to run Meebo from the sidebar. Meebo is available as a native app for iPhone, besides having a great mobile version of the site.
- Supported IM Services: Meebo supports an impressive 65 IM services in total. So if there is a messaging service available on the Internet, you can bet it is supported in Meebo.
- Sign Up: Required to manage multiple accounts and protocols. However, you can choose to login to individual networks without a Meebo account.
- Privacy & Security: Passwords are encrypted. Chats are logged for those with a Meebo account.
eBuddy has been around for a while, but has become a rage in the past few months thanks to its famous iPhone client. ebuddy’s IM service is fully featured and the UI is a sight for sore eyes. eBuddy allows you to have all your buddies from multiple IM accounts in one single list. Chats are arranged in tabs making life easy for users with multiple conversations running most of the time.
Organizing your contacts from multiple accounts is a much sought after feature in eBuddy. eBuddy claims that on an average, each user manages 200 contacts via their eBuddy account. That sums up everything. eBuddy also works from behind firewalls.
- Supported IM Services: eBuddy supports MSN, Yahoo, Gtalk, Facebook, ICQ, MySpace and AIM (AOL).
- Sign Up: Optional. Sign up enables faster signing in to multiple accounts and unlocks premium features like more emoticons.
Nimbuzz is getting all the buzz from its mobile clients, the most famous being the iPhone app. Just as its native iPhone app, Nimbuzz also offers a fabulous web messaging service. Like Meebo, Nimbuzz also handles voice & video chats, file sharing and group chats with panache. However, it steals the thunder away from any other competing IM service with its impeccable support for VOIP calls. Skype is supported out of the box, enabling users to make free or cheap VOIP calls.
Logging into individual networks is absolutely not necessary. Once you login to your Nimbuzz account, all the associated IM networks are logged in automatically. The interface is simple, yet gorgeous and you can group online buddies in anyway you please, irrespective of the network they are in. As an icing on the cake, Nimbuzz also lets you know the physical location of your chat buddy, if he/she has the feature turned on.
- Supported IM Services: Nimbuzz supports MSN, Yahoo, facebook, GTalk, AIM, Myspace, ICQ, studiVZ, Gadu-Gadu, Hyves, Giovani and Skype.
- Sign Up: Required to manage multiple accounts and protocols.
- Privacy & Security: Passwords are encrypted. Chats are logged for registered users and they can’t be deleted by the user.
Being a relative newcomer, imo.im offers its own set of unique features. One of the features that keeps me hooked to imo.im is the concept of linked accounts. With this feature, all your IM accounts can be linked together from the settings page. When you login to one of your linked accounts, you will be automatically logged into all your other linked IM accounts as well. Pretty neat isn’t it?
imo allows grouping of buddies using lists and sorting by adding a star to buddies you talk often. imo.im user interface is simple and minimal, offering a decent set of features like blocking or hiding from buddies, renaming buddy names, Skype integration, video and voice chat. Buddies chatting from a mobile phone are indicated by a mobile phone icon right next to them.
- Supported IM Services: imo.im supports MSN, Yahoo, facebook, GTalk, AIM, Myspace, ICQ and Skype.
- Sign Up: Required to manage multiple accounts and protocols.
KoolIM presents a friendly, lightweight and easy to use online IM interface mimicking almost all common features we expect from a desktop Instant Messenger. You can chat either using the embedded client available right within the browser window or a pop up client that looks like a desktop app. KoolIM also boasts that it will work from behind any firewall or proxy server in a corporate environment.
- Supported IM Services: Kool IM supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, Jabber , Gtalk, Gadu Gadu on the consumer side. On the enterprise side it supports Sametime, Simple, SIP, LCS, and Jabber.
- Sign Up: Optional. Users can login to multiple accounts without signing up.
ILoveIM is a simple yet reliable online IM app. The service has been around since 2004 and performs most of the basic functions we expect from a messenger app. ILoveIM enables you to be invisible right from from the sign up page.
- Supported IM Services: ILoveIM supports MSN, AIM, Yahoo, Myspace and Gtalk.
- Sign Up: Not required.
- Privacy & Security: Passwords are encrypted with a 1024 bit RSA key and is a participant of the TRUSTe Privacy Seal Program.
Almost everyone knows very much about this iconic IM service. Yahoo is a name that is synonymous with simplicity and security, so is this web app from them.
- Supported IM Services: Yahoo and MSN.
- Sign Up: Required.
- Privacy & Security: Passwords are encrypted and chat history is stored.
All the online web messengers reviewed perform as advertised. People who are privacy conscious should know that Nimbuzz users are complaining in their support forum over the inability to delete chat logs. Personally I found Meebo to be full featured and constantly innovating to enhance the user experience.
Do try one or a few of these web messengers and let us know what you think in the comments section. If you use a great service that we missed to mention, do comment about that too.
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Intro. icon image credit: Steven Ligatsa
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