Why You Don’t Need Desktop Chat Clients Anymore

intro image   Why You Dont Need Desktop Chat Clients AnymoreRemember the days of MSN Messenger and AIM? Those two were the first chat clients I ever used. Once I started using them more and more, it became cumbersome to switch between clients and contact windows. Soon after, multiple-chat clients came about, the popular ones being Miranda IM, Trillian, Pidgin and Digsby. They’re still available, but do you really use them? Or need them? I have Trillian installed on my computer and I honestly can’t remember the last time I opened it. It’s basically just been an unconscious decision to stop using it.

So what do you use instead? I’ve found myself gravitating towards online chat clients instead. Many of them are built into websites I’m using already, so why have an additional program running?

Your Browser Is Already Open

Likely when you’re on your computer, you have some sort of website open. It’s very unlikely that you aren’t using your browser for some purpose already, so why not combine it with communication too?

In addition to already using your browser, you’re probably already using one (if not more) of the websites which contain a chat client. You know, Gmail, Facebook, Outlook.com… need I list more? Those are pretty much the top three that we use to communicate with. There’s also Yahoo Mail, which also has its own messenger, but who really uses that anymore?

Save On Space & Resources

Along with your browser already being in use, you can save on space and resources on your computer by not running additional programs. For most computers this isn’t a major concern since they’re built to handle more resource-extensive applications now days. That said, every little thing adds up and it’s not a bad idea to still keep things to a minimum. Although I do like desktop applications for certain things, I also find myself using web apps for an equal replacement at times.

Your Contacts Are In The Cloud, You Should Be Too

Perhaps you thought that all this time your contacts in your standalone desktop chat client were saved on your computer, and in some local clients that’s the case. However, the majority of the time, they are stored in the cloud with the services you’re connected to – Google, Facebook, etc. So in that sense, you aren’t really tied to any specific client. This means you can go anywhere and be on any computer and still talk to your friends and family.

There are certainly portable applications that allow you to take your favorite IM client with you by using Portable Apps. But in my opinion, that’s a bit more of a hassle. and again, you’re already going to be using the Internet, so you might as well use it for this too.

What About Video Chatting?

You might be thinking “but I use Skype all the time! How am I supposed to use that online?” Well, you might not realize this, but Facebook and Skype are best friends, and you can video chat on Facebook, through Skype. There’s really no need for Skype to be installed on your computer.

Facebook Video Chat   Why You Dont Need Desktop Chat Clients Anymore

Skype isn’t the only player in video chatting anymore though, and they certainly knew this and jumped to partner with Facebook to help fill the gap that the mighty Google has shown a lot of success in. You may have heard about Google+ Hangouts. Have you tried them? If not, you should – it’s quite nice. And as an added bonus it works directly within Google Chat in Gmail.

If you want even more convincing, check out Tina’s article 5 Reasons Google Hangouts Are Cooler Than Skype For Video Chats.

The Web Chat Client Alternatives

imo.im    Why You Dont Need Desktop Chat Clients Anymore

We’ve already touched upon Facebook Chat and Google Chat, which are the two primary services you’ll likely be using the most. However, if you’re an Outlook.com (Hotmail) user, you can also connect your Facebook account to that account while still staying in touch with your native Windows contacts.

Note that Yahoo can also sync to Facebook and allow you to talk with Yahoo and Facebook contacts simultaneously from your Yahoo Mail page. I haven’t been really impressed with the chat features though and it seems quite cumbersome to use compared to other online chat clients.

But what about outside of the “standard” services that we use though? Well, perhaps you’ve heard of Meebo. That’s a pretty popular one and… oh, what? Google bought it?

meebo note   Why You Dont Need Desktop Chat Clients Anymore

Well, so much for that then. Thankfully though, Meebo isn’t the only option. There are quite a few alternatives, but my overall favorite is imo.im.

imo.im certainly isn’t the only web chat client – Craig covered some new similar sites like Instan-t Express Web IM and ILoveIM. Another great service that seems fairly new is IM+. There are quite a few others available too like WeBuzz.IM, Nimbuzz and older ones like eBuddy.

imo.im has been around a while too, and it is evident that it is continuing development and constantly adding new features. One feature that makes it stand out is the ability to send short audio clips of what you want to say. Not only can you send audio clips though, but you can also place calls to any service. This is the only web chat client which can do this, that I know of.

It also can connect to Skype, which is very rare. IM+ can also do this, but it can’t place calls, which is a big shortfall when it comes to communicating with Skype contacts.

IM+   Why You Dont Need Desktop Chat Clients Anymore

Below is a complete list of the best web chat clients, the ones in bold being the ones I recommend.

Websites Aside, There Are Also Extensions

Something we often don’t think of in this area is the simple browser extension which can replace a full-fledged desktop chat client. This slightly depends on your browser though. In doing some quick research I found that there are many more chat clients available for Chrome than Firefox. There were a few Firefox add-ons, but nothing close to the quantity and quality in the Chrome Web Store.

Below are some Chrome extensions that I’d recommend:

Final Thoughts

There are quite a few options to chat online, but amongst a lot of the “clutter” there are only a few good ones. Even in the ones I’ve covered in this article, there are some that stand out far greater than others. Through my testing and opinion, these would be again the bolded ones which I listed in the web chat client section.

What are your thoughts on a standalone local chat client versus a web-based one? Do you see any disadvantages in using a web chat client over one on your desktop? Or have you found yourself using more web-based communication instead?

Image Credit: Big Speech Bubble Made Smaller Speech Bubbles via Shutterstock

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36 Comments -

A Murder of Crows

Dead wrong on this i feel. One thing a desktop client can do that none of these other services can is file transfer, something i utilize all the time when i don’t want to go through the hassle of adding an additional person to my dropbox or google docs account. In fact, this feature alone has be using trillian all the time as an assist to my code development meetings each week, allowing remote meetings to occur.

Aaron Couch

Fair enough. Trillian is a great program, no doubt.

If you’re frustrated with Dropbox, though. I recommend checking out this article, which Yaara wrote not too long ago: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/dropbox-quickest-ways-share-file-si/

P.S. Sorry for missing this comment and not responding sooner.

Drew Bookout

I find myself using the default message system on my MacBook Pro to chat with people on iPhones, macs, and iTouchs (using iMessage) instead of using my iPhone. For everyone else I use Skype or simply the chat system in Facebook (which FB’s is quick and easy).
I also have trillian installed (but like the author) on my Desktop Windows 7 machine and I never use it. Honestly I forgot about it until i read this and just doubled checked to see if it was still installed.
As for me though, i’m kinda mixed about which one is better. The downside i have found with browser chats (like FBs) is that they tend to have server connection issues or are delayed. As for resources on your computer, I honestly haven’t worried about that since memory prices dropped and HDDs sizes exploded in size which has been a couple of years now.

Terafall

In your opinion,what other desktop client are unnecessary?

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Email, I guess, unless you’re keen on having local backup.

Aaron Couch

Yeah – like Lisa said, email. It just depends on the user’s needs. Perhaps photo editors are another. Web apps are becoming increasingly popular over local apps as cloud storage continues to improve.

Christopher Chen

Quite honestly, I don’t like having my browser open. The temptation of all of the dark recesses of the internet being within my reach for only the cost of a few keystrokes is sometimes too strong; but leaving my browser closed can sometimes alleviate my urge to stumbleupon new content. I also enjoy playing various FPS’s, Minecraft, etc. which consume a lot of resources on my three and a half year old notebook, so I need the extra memory and CPU cycles for performance. Finally, I feel like I have less control over my computer usage when I use web apps, and the apps frequently do not have all of the features I expect from their desktop counterparts; being able to do what I want with my application is very important to me and web apps just don’t provde the same experience.

Aaron Couch

All very valid arguments and points Christopher! And although it may seem contradictory to what I wrote, I would have to agree on many levels.

Thanks for sharing and sorry to reply so late! So very… late.

Zhong Jiang

Pidgin featured most chat clients that you can connect through, that’s the primary reason why I used it. Other reason is because of IRC, where I can discuss to people about problems for my system and can be really handy at times. However the results vary. I agree that the using a web browser to chat with your friend is really conservative but when you’re trying to view send messages, their interface like facebook, forces the user to constantly scroll up the page and isn’t categorized neatly. Pidgin stored them on a local folder and it’s simpler to navigate.

While there are disadvantages known due to personal preference, people should just think for themselves on whether they want a software for communication or website-based.

Alex Downs

I’ve never honestly saw a purpose for desktop chat lol.

Fakhruddin Ahmad

F**kin YES!! (sorry about the language, but I’m feeling so excited right now)
You see, when I open my Chrome without opening any website, it’s already consumed more than 1 GB of my 4 GB RAM. It’s all because of the extensions..

Manuel Guillermo LĂłpez Buenfil

Leaving my browser open would consume a lot more resources than using a desktop client. Right now, Firefox is using 626 MB of RAM, while Pidgin is using 18 MB. Additionally, with Pidgin I can be connected to all my accounts simultaneously, without having to open any website (or websites for different accounts). I think I’ll stick to my desktop client.

Tug Ricks

I haven’t used a desktop messaging client for at least four years. But then again, most of my communication happens via email, Facebook, or texts. Perhaps they still serve a purpose for some, but I would imagine that they’re far less utilized than they once were.

Arron Walker

I miss MSN. I’d still use it, if any of my contacts where online when I logged in myself.

Douglas Mutay

Thanks for the article. In fact I had to switch to the Web Chat Client because I am not autorized to install any app in my office PC. So gtalk was the best alternative for me. Even if I found it a little bit slow than the app version, but still I can use it and stay in contact with all my buddies!

Alae Hatoum

I personally don’y use any chat client specially on the desktop since I’m not really a big fan of people jumping on me all the time and chatting me up even if they are friends . Recently all the need for chat clients were answered with something as simple as imo.im and more recently whatsapp and skype for video calls (I still don’t understand hangouts enough to trust them with video calls , the whole G+ is really a Mess for me) .
Many of my friends no longer use messengers too and being able to give the large size downloads and reourse hogs like Windows live messenger for example towards a simple light web based chat service is great although like I said I hardly ever chat with anyone outside my close close family and other than that I’m doing fine using Mail and direct messages on twitter .
One last note is that Hotmail have their native web based client which is pretty nice and sweet .

Scutterman

Okay, so my first point is that my highly customised Miranda installation only takes up about 26M of ram and no cpu when idling. This is less than what a new Firefox tab would take up, which means that if I don’t have the website open, my messenger is already at an advantage.
Since Facebook is the only website I’m likely to have open, this would mean that I don’t get my Yahoo or WLM contacts, some of whom don’t use Facebook or at least don’t use Facebook Chat.

The other major thing is that the desktop client provides features that can’t be replicated on the web. Being able to move the contact list and conversations to wherever on the screen I want them, quick-change status, easily viewing the contact list if it’s hidden, and better notifications. It also provides me with more control and settings, such as disabling smilies, which annoy me greatly in image form.

I’ve also taken to storing the chat histories and client settings in my dropbox (using the Windows version of symlinks) so I can have the same experience everywhere.

I will admit that Skype fares far worse in terms of resources, but there is two reasons why this doesn’t bother me:
1) I have plenty of resources to spare
2) People use Skype. I could switch to Facebook Video or Google Hangouts, but I’d be video chatting with myself because no-one I know uses them.

I’m not the standard use case when it comes to messengers. Like every piece of software on my computer I’ll find a good one, tweak it to within an inch of it’s life, and stick with it until it annoys me. I rapidly went through just about every other chat client, and some web clients, before I settled on Miranda. Now I’m happy it’ll take a whole lot to convince me to switch.

Alae Hatoum

Regarding the chat history imo does that by default and its very very minimal , its just text on a white background and history goes back as years , pretty much as far back as they implemented the feature …

Scutterman

The chat histories are a nice-to-have really. I just did it to see what I could do with dropbox and I only mentioned it here to counteract the cloud storage point. I can’t really remember the last time I actually read my chat histories.

Lana Bange

Ugh, yes, because I want my file transfers to drop every time Flash messes up my browser. Besides, Pidgin takes up about 20MB memory, while Firefox uses half a gigabyte.

Umair Adil

Among all of the chat softwares listed above only Skype has a bright future. Everything else is long gone.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

I agree. It has been a long time since I actually use desktop chat client. In-site Shoutbox and integrated Y!Messenger do the job for me.

Boni Oloff

Trilian looks very interesting, available in almost every os, for desktop and mobile. Even have the web version.
But the comment in the iPhone version very bad. I don’t know how bad is that, because i will not purchase it after see the review.

Anthony Monori

Still using Skype and iMessages, but slowly I’m migrating to the browser. I stopped using Yahoo Messenger, WLM almost a year ago, and I really don’t miss them.

Bud

……….and why change for the sake of change? I use Skype, MSN Messenger, and the Chinese QQ to chat and view, with excellent viewing results .

Yahoo and a few others are the “pits” for viewing, Facebook, eh ? There chat window is too damn small and limited.

With the first three, I can send and receive files and such. I am online for many hours a day, and if or when necessary, I can simply open my Safari toolbar and empty my cache.

Fortunately, I’m retired now and DON”T NEED speed to do any multi-tasking, and my iMac just purrs right along !

Bud

P.S.

Only complaint I do experience is using Facetime with compatible Apple products.

grandfred

icq , dont forget icq :)

Chaitanya Pramod

Another budding IM client which I fell in love with is Talk.to. It has a desktop client as well as a beautiful chrome extension. It can already speak GTalk and FB chat, and I’m told support for MSN will drop in anytime soon!

Chaitanya Pramod

Oops, meant to say “has a *web client* …”

Jeff Schallenberg

Just a minor correction to your statement that MSN Messenger and AIM were the original instant messaging programs.

In fact, Mirabilis introduced ICQ (“I Seek You”) in 1996.

Two years later, AOL acquired Mirabilis and ICQ. MSN Messenger came along in 1999.

Muo TechGuy

He actually said “Those two were the first chat clients I ever used” – not that “these were the first two chat clients ever”. He’s only young, forgive him!

Rick

I use Pidgin everyday. I love it. It let’s me be signed in to multiple accounts from the same services (multiple yahoo accounts specifically) and other services too. No hunting for the right tab when chatting, easy to customize font, time stamp, easy to search archive, make it something I just can’t get by without and glad I don’t have to. Having the always on top window that has a variable opacity is very convenient and superior to browsing back and forth between active tab and tab with the chat.

I realize web apps are the de facto future, and are crowed about and crowned as often as possible, but there isn’t a web app that is this useful (not yet, Pidgin web app? I might use it.)

Muo TechGuy

I’m going to add to the overall opinion of “youre wrong”. Mainly because switching tabs whenever a chat messages comes is inane when I can have an actual chat client left open on the side of the screen.

See, this is why the chromebook is such a fail. Stop trying to do everything in a web browser! You know what a web browser is for? Browsing the web. The clue is in the name.

Norbert Miller

Different strokes for different folks – we’ll all have our preferences, and many commenters here give good technical reasons for theirs. But I must say I heartily disagree with the author’s suggestion that we should all transfer to the cloud – either because everyone else is there or for any other reason.

My own perspective is from a non-technical social/political point of view: more and more, there is an increasingly pervasive tendency for people to store on the cloud things that ought to be strictly private. I read an article once (maybe even on MUO) telling a sob story about a person who had lost, among other things, lots of baby pictures because of some glitch in the cloud service he was using to hold his photos. Well, I personally think that if I ask you to hold my stuff, I should hardly expect you to hold it with the same care I can! Get a(nother) USB hard drive; they’re cheap. Another way I like to put it is that I’d hardly rent space in a public locker room to store my underwear and socks; that’s STRICTLY personal business.

I feel the same about web-based clients, although with a bit less force. However, I think that regarding the privacy issue, there will be (potentially) less cloud-based information to be compromised than there might be on a standalone application on one’s own device. One never knows when some governmental entity will start a widespread web-mining operation to scrape up personal information. Without holding any conspiratorial views on the matter, I still think it’s prudent to keep one’s business to oneself as much as possible. Think of it in terms of keeping the car or house locked while still basically trusting the neighbors.

Proteus

I don’t think its fair to write an article trying to speak for everyone, to make some very false statements such as “desktop messenger clients are totally dead now!”. Just because you haven’t used a desktop client in a while doesn’t mean nobody else has either. In fact, if you look around, you’ll see just how alive and active desktop IM clients actually are today compared to web clients, most of which are either fairly new or even more abandoned due to inconveniences of major kinds compared to any around the desktop client. I use Trillian every single day, and just about everybody I know uses a desktop client for the same reasons I do as well as many of the others who have commented here.

This is an opinion article, but written to try to make it sound like its not.

Christopher Webb

I can’t wait till we have telepathy…until someone learns to hack it. =/