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MSN, ICQ, AIM, Yahoo... Too many messengers?

There are dozens of instant messaging protocols out there. MSN, Yahoo and AIM are the biggest ones with ICQ losing more and more ground each day but still being a big player in some parts of the world. But there are also more protocols like Gadu Gadu, Jabber, SIP, etc... If you have friends that use different protocols, it can be a hassle to have multiple clients open all the time, one for each protocol. That's where multi-protocol clients come into play.

Multi-protocol clients allow someone to use a single application to connect to many protocols at the same time, eliminating the need to have several applications open. Generally this means that less system resources get used up for all the protocols and the interface is more unified among the different protocols thus causing less confusion when switching between chats on different protocols. The main downside is that not all features of some of the protocols/applications are ported over. This entry will briefly highlight 2 of such clients, both for Windows.

Of these multi-protocol applications, the most well-known one for Windows is Trillian. This one comes in 2 versions, a basic one which is free and a full-featured one which is not for free. It is a capable and well-built application, even the basic version is more than capable. While I don't use this client anymore, it has one very strong point going for it (altho I am not sure if this still is the case?)... MSN for instance used to change its protocol quite regularly (less frequently the past few years), causing multi-protocol clients to not work properly anymore when accessing the MSN network. Trillian has a very good track-record when it comes to fixing their protocol-implementation to keep up with these changes.

Personally tho, I prefer Miranda IM. This is a free, open-source multi-protocol client that is very much plugin-based. The application itself is basically nothing more than a container that you can throw plugins at to add functionality as you please. By default it comes with a bunch of plug-ins so you can fire it up and talk to all your friends from the get-go. While Trillian also supports plug-ins and there are plenty available, I find Miranda IM's got more of them and they somehow feel more light-weight, like the application itself feels more light-weight. You don't even have to install Miranda IM, there's a ZIP available that you can unzip wherever you want and it's ready to go! It also has a very active community which offers plenty of plug-ins that can help you transfer from another client to Miranda IM by for instance offering a plug-in that will transfer the message-history of your old client, etc. My preference to use Miranda IM over Trillian is very much feeling-based as both clients are very capable and in my opinion the two best one out there, but Miranda IM is open-source, its plug-in based nature has something appealing to me and I like the way it looks by default (it supports skinning like Trillian, but to be fair there are way more skins for Trillian, I just don't like Trillian's default skin).

These are not the only multi-protocol clients out there tho, you can find a large list here if you want to give some a try. Have fun!


Hi, I never got miranda IM to work on my Windows PC mainly cause of my firewall, Miranda has way too many loopback. I personnaly have been using Gaim 2 beta x for a while as well as Wengophone which are both open source applications

Fortunately I've never had such firewall problems, even at my work it goes straight through. That's pretty horrible tho if you can't get your firewall and Miranda-IM working at the same time :(

Gaim is pretty good on Linux (I use it on my Linux-machine), tho I can't stand the Windows version, it's almost as if the Windows version is an afterthought for the Gaim developers.

I have never heard of Wengophone, it looks very interesting, might have to try it out! Thanxxx for mentioning it!

for Mac users, AdiumX is a great multi-protocol chat client. It's a really well programmed, great looking application and, best of all, it's free!