Messaging Blues

The Magic of Messaging: This blog contains stuff related to E-Mail, SMS,Text Messaging, Instant messaging, MMS etc (Mobile/Internet/Wireless/Text/IM)

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Review: GAIM - Open Source Messenger for Yahoo/ MSN/ ICQ/ AOL/ Jabber/ Gadu-Gadu


Then there's Gaim, a multi-protocol IM client for Linux, BSD, MacOS X, and Windows originally developed by devotees of the penguin sitting around in an Auburn University college dorm room trying to emulate AOL's instant messenger. Like most Linux-based programs, GAIM is free and is kept current by programmers who work on it in their spare time. It interacts with a range of IM networks both large and small, including AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, IRC, Jabber, Gadu-Gadu, and Zephyr IM networks.

The program is easy to install and easy to use. A simplified interface allows a user to add and edit buddy names, initiate conversations, and even carry on multiple chats simultaneously.

Additional features include Buddy Pouncing (the ability to notify you, send a message, play a sound, or run a program when a specific buddy goes away, signs online, or returns from idle); support for customizable away messages; typing notification alerts; MSN window closing notifications; support for the SILC (Secure Internet Live Conferencing) protocol; and support for plug-ins, with current plug-in offerings such as text replacement, a buddy ticker, extended message notification, and iconify on away.

In some respects, this is open source at its best. Launched as a solo effort, the program now involves a number of programmers working diligently to improve the application. Updates have been coming as often as every two weeks, with the latest iteration fixing some 240 minor bugs that had been identified in prior versions.

Still, free open-source software can have its own frustrations. Take for instance this item from Gaim's FAQ page: "Does Gaim support file transfer?" The response: "Somewhat, yeah." The reply then goes on to list some supported transfer types, adding, "If you would like file transfer to work better or be more complete, get CVS and submit a patch using the generic file transfer API." For the non-developer crowd, um, what?

Overall, these products make sense for heavy IM users. They simplify the process of tracking and communicating with multiple buddies over diverse platforms. Is that a plus or a minus in your life? It all depends on how much time you have on your hands.

Pros: Freeware/open source; handles a wide range of IM services, both major and minor; frequent updates

Cons: Subject to changes in the proprietary APIs of IM networks such as AOL and Yahoo! that could lead to temporary inability to connect to these networks, free and open source status begs question of Gaim's long-term availability (continued development depends on continued interest of programmers)