Instant Messaging

Posted on May 11, 2004

Jabber seems as though it will be really important and one of those things that I should use in preference to AIM or any other proprietary alternative. It’s an open standard with seemingly well-defined protocols and both client and server implementations are available for lots of platforms, as applicable.

I’ve tried to wean myself off iChat to an XMPP based client several times, but always failed. It was always hard to change from the cute iChat look and feel to something less glamorous, but that was never the real stumbling block. No, it was the spotty support for SOCKS proxies that always bit me, as they are required to access The Internet from within SWAN.

For several days now Adium X has been my IM client of choice. The SOCKS problem seems to have been solved - all of Jabber, AIM and MSN are working via the proxy defined in System Preferences (or directly if no proxy is set). This seems to be as a result of using a bunch of back-end libraries from gaim. A good example of one open-source project taking advantage of the efforts of another.

The look and feel is not too bad either. The chat window uses WebCore for rendering, so the usual wild variety of themes and display options is available. It’s not as immediately cute as iChat, but it’s easy to get something that works well and is also pretty. The buddy list is not quite so well implemented, though it also sports a wide variety of options to control its appearance.

A nice feature that I didn’t expect is that Adium stores history on a per-buddy basis, so that when a new conversation starts it injects some of the previous conversation. It’s a simple thing, but it improves usability a little for me at least.

Missing are the audio and video features of iChat, which I’d actually like to use occasionally. I’ve had an iSight for over six months now and I’ve never used it for a video chat, so it’s obviously not vital to my daily life. Of course, if the need arises, it’s always still available. If I did participate in audio or video conversations frequently this would probably be a killer (though perhaps I could use iChat for AIM and Adium for other services).

Development of Adium is fast paced - seemingly a new release every week. It’s worth an afternoon to try it out, especially if you have friends on non-AIM networks that you can’t otherwise reach.