Five Best Instant Messengers

Five Best Instant Messengers

On Tuesday we asked for your favourite instant messaging applications, and over 550 comments later, we’ve culled it down to the most popular five. From web-based chat to desktop clients to tools that combine IM, email, and social networking, your nominations spanned a wide range of instant messaging applications. Let’s take a closer look at the five most voted-for apps, and face them off against each other in a final showdown to crown the ultimate favourite.

Digsby (Windows)

The youngest application by far to make the Hive Five, Digsby has taken the world by storm since we first mentioned it in February. Boasting integration with all of your IM networks as well as your email and social networking (Facebook and MySpace included), Digsby is converting new users left and right with their simple but appealing formula: IM + Email + Social Networking = Digsby. Currently a Windows only app, Digsby’s developers promise that Mac and Linux versions are in the oven—and that they’re constantly squashing bugs from the still-young Windows version.

Pidgin (Windows/Linux)

pidgin-2.pngFormerly known as Gaim, this cross-platform, open source IM client has a huge following on both Windows and Linux platforms, estimating over 3 million users in 2007. Much like Firefox, Pidgin is open and extensible, meaning you can add your own improved functionality and tools to Pidgin by simply installing a plug-in (like one of these 10 must-have Pidgin plug-ins.)

Meebo (Web)

By far the most popular web-based chat application, Meebo boasts support for all popular chat networks, video and voice chat, and even an iPhone interface. Meebo’s main appeal is that it works wherever you are, no matter what operating system you’re using, as long as you’ve got a web browser and an internet connection. Can’t go wrong with that.

Adium (Mac OS X)

The overwhelming favourite chat app for OS X, Adium puts Apple’s default IM application, iChat, to shame. Like Pidgin, Adium is highly customisable, extensible with plug-ins, and works across all your favourite IM networks. In fact, Adium is kind of like a brother from a different mother to Pidgin; it got its brain from Pidgin’s daddy, libpurple, but its looks straight from the dangerous maiden that is OS X.

Trillian (Windows)

Once an overwhelming favourite for cross-network instant messaging, Trillian has lost a lot of users to newer apps like Digsby or fresher ones like Pidgin. That said, the long-awaited update to Trillian, Trillian Astra, is still in alpha, and those who have tried it continue to place all of their IM trust to Trillian. In the future, Trillian is also promising a Mac release along with an iPhone version, so it may have plenty of life in it yet.

Now let’s see if we can’t crown a favourite.

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Honorable mention goes to Miranda IM and Google Talk/Google Chat, both of which barely missed the cut.

Whether or not your chat app of choice made the top five, let’s hear what you love about it in the comments.


  • Kinda surprised there aren’t more Digsby votes here. After using Trillian for ages, I discovered Digsby through a friend last week. I cast a provisional vote for Digsby due to 2 things that I see as a weakness compared to Trillian:

    * There is no information for offline buddies as to when they were last seen. I keep my buddy list online 24/7, and if I haven’t seen someone lately, I would often scroll through “Offline” buddies and see if they really hadn’t been around or if I had just missed seeing them.

    * Fly-outs are SUPER ANNOYING. I’m talking about the tooltips that fly out when you mouse over a buddy, an email account, or a social networking account on your buddy list. They sometimes load slowly, but far worse than this is getting rid of them. On Trillian they just go away once you move your mouse off the buddy’s name…but on Digsby they don’t. I have tried clicking the taskbar, another application, waiting patiently, all sorts of things, and sometimes they just don’t go away. I can even be typing in another application window (browser, for instance), and the pop-out is STILL THERE, blocking part of the application. I realize I could avoid this by shrinking the buddy list, but I like my buddy list to be open all the time so I can watch see it while I work, surf, etc.

    These are two minor complaints that I hope will be improved once Digsby is out of beta. With Digby putting my email and social networking in the same convenient window as all of my IM clients, I doubt I will be returning to Trillian.

  • Digsby is beautiful but not stable andn unresponsible sometimes. Pidgin is always ready for you. And you have to open another account in Digsby. First it searchs for updates and believe me it take no less than 1 minute. I vote for Pidgin.

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