Instant messaging is great when everyone you need to reach uses the same system, but it can become a Tower of Babel nightmare when they don't. With the free Jabber Instant Messenger, you're able to chat with ICQ, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger users, as well as with other JIM subscribers.
Jabber.com isn't the first company to try to link with other services, but most of those services (especially AOL Instant Messenger) have been quick to block any kind of interoperability. During my informal testing, I was able to get Jabber.com's new version 188.8.131.52 to communicate successfully with the other services, albeit not with complete reliability. JIM even worked fairly successfully with AIM, but AOL subsequently began to block JIM's access to AIM's servers. This is a compatibility battle which will probably go on for some time, because AOL doesn't seem to want rival messaging systems to be able to talk to AIM users.
Underlying the JIM client is a technology being developed at www.jabber.org, which hopes to produce a universal, open protocol for instant communication across the Internet. If successful, the adoption of this standard would signal an end to the present balkanisation of real-time chat, where users of different programs can't talk to each other.
Since Jabber is open source, several clients are available, but JIM appears to be the most stable. Its interface is very AIM-like, with a simple contacts list that can be organised into folders, plus toolbar buttons to handle basic functions. JIM allows you to chat one-on-one with another user or simultaneously with multiple users from other services.
To use JIM to chat with non-Jabber IM users, you must first set up a gateway with each service. This entails creating an account for the outside service and then entering the account name and password into JIM's gateway settings. It took me several tries to set up MSN Messenger and ICQ gateways.
JIM has fewer advanced features than ICQ or AIM, but it has advantages for users with contacts across the IM universe. I'll definitely keep it installed on my system.
Jabber Instant Messenger 184.108.40.206
Price: Free download; http://www.jabber.com