I’ve found over the last few years that I’ve started instant messaging more and more. Since nearly everyone seems to always be at their computers, it’s a convenient way to quickly get in touch with them. Now that IM is included with things like Facebook and Gmail, I’m online even more often.
Most IM clients, or at least most good ones, require a downloaded client in order to work. That’s fine and good, unless we’re on a different computer, or don’t have administrative privileges on our work computers, or just don’t like extra clutter on our hard drive.
If you fall into any of those camps, here are five totally Web-based, totally free online instant messaging services that you might want to check out.
Meebo is the most popular of the Web IM choices, and with good reason. This online instant messaging service works with AIM, Yahoo, MySpace, Facebook, MSN, GTalk, ICQ, Jabber, and even Flixster.
Meebo also offers group chat, a great mobile version (for iPhones and the like), and even access in your Firefox sidebar. There’s support for file-sharing, video chat, and much more – it’s as fully-featured, if not more so, than most desktop IM clients.
My experience with Meebo was that it works best with Facebook chat, and is definitely one of the simplest to use. It’s also incredibly well-funded, which means it’s likely to stick around for a while.
Whether you use it on the site or embed it on your own website, Meebo’s a terrific IM client.
Meebo’s not my favorite, though; that prize belongs to Nimbuzz. Nimbuzz is mostly making a name for itself as a client for your cell phone or iPhone (and it’s a great one), but it offers a fabulous Web-based messaging client as well. You can make calls, group chats, send files, and do anything you’d want to do with an IM.
Instead of logging in each time to every one of your networks, you can put them all into an account with Nimbuzz instead. Then, every time you log in, just enter one username and password, and log in to all your IM networks. You can put your buddies into groups, view them by network, or just lump them all into one list.
Though Nimbuzz only has a couple of unique features – like the friend locator, to see where people are – its simplicity of use and gorgeous interface make it my IM application of choice (on every platform – but let’s stick with the Web for now.)
The feature that really sold me, though, was Skype integration – nothing else has it, and Nimbuzz does it very well. It’s a great VOIP client, a great Instant Messenger, and the application to start with in my opinion.
imo is a relatively unknown player on the Web IM scene, but is beginning to make some waves, and with good reason. My favorite things about this online instant messenger are within your buddy list, you can star buddies you talk to most, re-name and re-order buddy lists, search through your buddy list, and even upload pictures of your buddies to the imo interface.
There’s support for voice and video chat (fingers crossed for Skype soon), some great keyboard shortcuts, and a simple-to-use interface.
If their project list is any indication, there’s some spectacular stuff coming soon from this already-great client, so keep this one bookmarked.
KoolIM is the niche-IMr’s tool of choice. In addition to the standards (Yahoo, MSN, AIM, GTalk), it supports ICQ, Gadu-Gadu, Xfire, Jabber, and more. If you’re a user of a small network, KoolIM may be your best – or only – choice.
KoolIM offers two options for chat – an embedded client, available right from within the browser window, or a popup client, which looks and feels a bit more like a desktop application, acting outside of your browser (but still as a browser window).
You can log in to one account at a time, or all of them by creating a KoolIM account. KoolIM also claims fame as functioning behind a firewall, which some other applications can have trouble with.
KoolIM’s simple, not particularly feature-rich, but is uniquely network-friendly among IM clients.
eBuddy supports a huge number of IM services – MSN, Yahoo, GTalk, ICQ, MySpace, and promises Facebook is coming soon.
When you load eBuddy, it opens a new window for you to chat in. Your chats and contacts are tabbed, and there’s even a chat history for your recent conversations.
eBuddy offers a bunch of client versions, including great ones for your cell phone. Much like Meebo, you can also embed eBuddy directly into your own website. eBuddy’s feature list really explodes when you create a free “eBuddy ID,” which gives you tons of fun and useful features – faster login, more emoticons, saved settings, and access to other premium features.
All of these applications and others do the basics well – they send and receive messages, notify you of new ones, and generally remove the need for a desktop application. If all you want to do is chat, any of these five will do – pick the prettiest one. Each one though, has a few unique features that make it the winner for specific people.
Try one or a few of these – which web-based client do you use for messaging?
Photo Credits: gonzalo_ar
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