Sunday, November 9, 2008

IM Just Got Interesting

Image by jidnet via FlickrIM has never been that big of a deal for me. Most of my friends have been using MSN Messenger since they first got on the internet, and have never left. That was chat for me - a critical mass sitting on one client, with IM not seeming to offer up much functionality besides. The only other place my friends would perhaps consider chatting would be Facebook following the launch of its IM product. Unlike many others on the internet, barely any of my chat contacts used GTalk, despite having gmail accounts.

However, the introduction of Friendfeed's capability to be received and interacted with via IM a couple of days ago piqued my curiosity (cyjy in the blog announcement's example screenshot is me - how rad is that!). It has the very handy option of alerting you when your items are commented on, which though sadly is not likely for me at this point in time, is something I like to stay abreast of. Besides this, new feed items can be IMed directly to you, with the possibilities of viewing only posts, posts and friends' comments, or posts and everyone's comments. I tried it out and enjoyed the ability to comment and like items via IM shortcuts. As Friendfeed connected with my GTalk account, initially I used iChat; since MSN was my main chat client, I decided to finally try out one of those cross-IM clients. I downloaded Adium, and was delighted to discover that Facebook Chat was supported as well. In a matter of minutes, my GTalk, MSN and Facebook chat contacts had been imported. I even downloaded the Skype plug-in for Adium to ensure that that my few contacts there were not left out.

The only thing that remained, in terms of my communication utilities, was Twitter. Although Twitter suspended its IM function earlier this year, Jesse Stay is hopeful that the XMPP stream, which allows Twitter to be received and updated via GTalk and other Jabber accounts, will be made available by Thanksgiving this year. In the meantime, I added excla.im's jabber bot as one of my contacts. Presently it only allows for Twitter to be updated via IM, but the developer is 'thinking hard' about how best to allow tweets to be received.

Although it was announced in May that Facebook Chat would soon, too, be XMPP-compliant, little seems to have been heard about that since. Regardless, clients like Adium (Mac only) and Digsby (Windows only) have managed to integrate it. If and when XMPP-compliant Facebook Chat and Twitter's XMPP stream are released, it could only mean more growth for chat, especially for services like Meebo. Its 'Community IM' partnerships provide XMPP/Jabber IM for web communities, which would then be able to integrate with Facebook Chat.

I'm really enjoying receiving my latest Friendfeed items via Adium, with each item appearing briefly as a lovely growl notification at the upper right-hand corner of my screen. To my mind, chat platforms used to be segregated one-trick ponies. With these recent revelations, I'm actually actively rooting for Twitter in my IM.

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