While nowadays most of the chatting you do doesn’t require downloading a client, some of you may still prefer to have the application on your PC, just to have your contacts and chat history available, even when you’re offline. About 10 years ago, everybody seemed to be on MSN, but since then new alternatives have emerged and old competitors have made significant improvements. Let’ see if we can convince you to ditch MSN for one of these other IM clients.
Pidgin – Only recently this client was known as Gaim, until it was forced by legal constraints to give up the name. The client was rebaptised as Pidgin and in the process upped to 2.0 and improved its interface. This multi protocol client features Buddy Pounce, an alert mechanism to notify you when friends send messages or come online.
Yahoo! Messenger – MSN’s biggest competitor, Yahoo! Messenger now offers VoIP PC to PC or PC to phone. The “Audibles”, a sort of animated and talking emoticons exclusive to the IM client, will either turn you off completely or make you laugh.
MySpaceIM – Aimed at the MySpace crowd, this IM client makes sure you’re never farther than a click away from your My Space page and best friends.
Trillian – This is one of the most innovative clients out there. Cerulean Studios are working on an online version of their IM clients that should blow the roof off of other applications. The current version is known for one of a kind features like server-less connection, “Instant Lookup” or videoconferencing. You can also customize the client thanks to all the skins available online.
Miranda IM – This is probably the lightest IM client you’ll find. Miranda needs no installation and will use up a minimum of resources when run. The client is multi protocol and can connect to ICQ, AIM, MSN or Yahoo among others.
AOL Instant Messenger – AIM is still up there with the best clients and offers features like 500+ buddy list, video and audio chat and text messaging to mobiles. AOL hopes to make AIM the “most viral, social and popular” IM application around. Will it succeed?
Star Messenger – Similarly to Miranda, Star Messenger is a discreet little IM client that handles multiple protocols and uses up very few of your PC’s resources.
Meetro – This IM client has often been perceived mainly as a dating tool. Meetro connects you with other Meetro users who live close to you so you can chat them up, and why not, invite them for a cup of coffee. The client allows for extensive customization of your own profile, like setting your favorite food, books you read, and even sexual orientation.
Google Talk – Half way between a messenger and a VoIP app, Google Talk is as simple and efficient as most of Google’s creations. The client integrates into Google Desktop and can show what tracks you’re listening to on iTunes.
ICQ – The most popular IM client in the 90s, ICQ probably never recovered from MSN’s rise. The new version brings a complete redesign and extensive customization. You can add a number of skins, create your own avatar and write down extensive information about yourself in the profile section. ICQ also has its own animated smilies, called “Tzers”. Overall, more cosmetic changes than actual improvements in the new version, though.