by December 4, 2001 0 comments

IMs (instant messengers) have been around for some time now. Experts have all reasons to believe that this Internet application will gain popularity and acceptance. It is an effective means of being in touch with your friends across geographical boundaries.

Those who have already had a taste of this fad, will have accounts with multiple services and will have at least two, if not more, of these installed on their PCs, either at office or home. With a list of buddies on MSN Messenger and a whole lot of distant NRI cousins on Yahoo, it becomes confusing to keep track of all. Moreover, all these messengers–AOL, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ–have their own client applications that take up precious memory on the PC. These need to be ‘signed-into’ separately and also add to the system boot up time. Here is where Universal IMs come in. Universal IM, or Interoperable IM clients are almost always free (like their dedicated buddies), except in cases where they may be deployed as a corporate messaging solution. Odigo, Imici, Jabber, and Trillian are some of the popular ones. Also, universal IMs are available for other platforms and OSs, like handhelds and Linux or Solaris

The technology behind these is simple enough. All IMs communicate with their specific protocols. These protocols are also licensed out. To do cross-talk, Universal IMs use all these simultaneously. Installation is a single client that prompts the user to add his existing IM accounts to the new universal client. Most often, this means signing up to the new messenger’s service too.

Once through, the client logs on to the concerned IM services and imports your buddy lists from the servers. These contacts are classified by default under ‘Service’ heads, but can also be reclassified as you like. The clients also feature audible and visual alerts to notify the user of buddies coming online and messages received. Other features include co-browsing, file transfers, and conference sessions. In fact, Imici plans to introduce a service that will allow users to use a browser-based IM client. This will do away with the need to even download and install client

Users may not find these clients as feature-rich as the stand-alone ones. Things like buddy searches are not that extensive in terms of options available. But, assuming that the seasoned user already has his contact lists in place, these are simpler to use and unified applications are a welcome change from four blinking icons in the system tray and four different interface windows on your

Ashish Sharma

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