Friday, January 4, 2008

On chatting

Another night and another blog entry, i'm on a massive roll. 

Anyway, looking through some feeds I saw a mention of a relatively dead IM app on the mac called Proteus. It got me thinking about the protocols and applications. For the miserable period I was on the PC, there was an awesome multi-protocol client that had no equal, it was Trillian and to to this day its still the best on the PC. 

For the Mac there have been several wanna-be's but I dont think any have quite made it. I think Adium is the closest but here as with many decent 3rd party apps that you just have to have Apple is closing the gap quickly with its iChat. Until recently it was pretty weak in multiple account/protocol support and only let you log into one account at a time. Now you can log into many and it supports AIM.Mac (really AIM protocol) and Jabber. The noticeable omission is Yahoo which is surprising giving that they do have relationships with Yahoo (iPhone push email as an example). I suspect, that unlike Google, Yahoo is not willing to allow any of its services to be used without a way to get some ads in. Google clearly doesnt care about that to the same degree. 

ICQ used to be a larger force, but with it being bought by AOL, I look at it as one company/protocol with AIM even if thats not technically true. The reality is that 90% of my contacts are AIM based or Yahoo. A very few of them are Gtalk and I dont see that growing.

So back to the client tools, Adium supports all the protocols well and has a very cool and reliable interface. It doesnt do voice or video conferencing. iChat does everything I care about except Yahoo and has some very slick video and voice conferencing. It also has remote control of macs, application sharing and other features. To me the feature set of iChat makes it something I can't give up on. So I keep all my contacts in iChat except Yahoo and I run Adium just for my yahoo contacts. 

Yes, so I run 2 chat clients all the time. Apple, please add Yahoo Messenger support to iChat.

The other thing that i've been suffering with is that along with many email addresses i've collected IM accounts over the years and have a dozen or so now. The different protocols require different accounts and sometimes you end up with accounts for work vs home. In the earlier days some protocols/clients wouldnt let you log on with an account if you were logged in somewhere else. That no longer seems to be the case and I think you can generally get down to one account per protocol. The oddity there is .mac vs AIM. The AIM ones are free, the .mac account I only get while I pay for .Mac which has questionable value due to its sync issues, and behind the curve space/webmail client etc.

I'd love to see the market gravitate to a single protocol, but I don't think it will happen. Barring that i'd like to see Apple either make everything they did available for folks like Adium to build it in (there were rumors of libraries for that but I dont know if it happened) or to go all the way with iChat.

Until then, i'm using (and liking) both.