Why You Don’t Need Desktop Chat Clients Anymore

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Remember 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.

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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.

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

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?

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.

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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Comments (38)
  • lordmogul

    The only desktop messengers I still need to use are:
    Pidgin (for 2 guys who just don’t want facebook and don’t own a smartphone) and
    Skype for conference calls while gaming (some people don’t use Teamspeak and/or don’t like the entire server thing attacked with it)

    For anything other there are things like whatsapp, facebook chat or steam.

  • RickC. Hodgin

    This is not an opinion article … it is an indoctrination. There is a mass movement to migrate people to the cloud and away from stand-alone apps on their desktop. On your desktop you can act as you want to, without the ability to datamine your content and usage. When you’re on a coud there’s a log of everything that you do, all of the content running through their servers, your chats, your emails, etc. There are even laws which mandate they make these kinds of backups (proposed by the same groups who are wanting you completely online for everything) whereby the keep everything for a period of time.

    We’re being fooled by the big companies. Their agenda is ownership of you, translating your at-home desktop usage model into an online “in the cloud” presence, one that can be monitored, mined, scrutinized, re-scrutinized, and ultimately turned on or off. It is no place any of us want to be. We need to stop using these online-only apps and demand our desktops back. That old software from a few years ago still installs on computers and works even faster now than it did back then do to advances in hardware. Use it.

  • Christopher Webb

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.