Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Believe it or not, there are still lots of people in the world who enjoy using instant messaging services. And I’m not talking about modern iterations like WhatsApp and Viber; I’m referring to 1990s-style MSN Messenger-esque apps.
Of course, it’s becoming harder to find good ones. Many of the old “big hitters” have disappeared. I’m sure many-a-tear was shed in October 2017 when AOL announced its famed Instant Messenger app would shut down for good at the end of the year.
But, if you’re an instant messaging fan, don’t worry. There are still some worthwhile services available.
Here are five online instant messaging services you can use to chat with friends and family.
If you’re a social media addict, you probably have messages flying at you from all angles on lots of different apps and accounts.
eBuddy (formerly known as e-Messenger) could be your solution. You can use the app to sign in to Facebook Chat, Google Hangouts, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, and more, thus allowing you to hold conversations across all the apps in a single aggregated interface. At the time of writing, the app has 30 million users and deals with 17 billion messages per month.
The app is accessible through both a web portal and your smartphone. There are apps available for Android and iOS.
Amazingly, ICQ is still going strong. It was arguably the first app to offer real-time chat for individual user accounts that was focused on one-on-one conversations, helping to finally move people away from IRC.
After launching in 1996, it rapidly grew in popularity. The app reached its zenith in 2001 when it boasted more than 100 million users. By 2010, the number had dropped to 42 million. Today, there are just 11 million users.
If you’re one of the 11 million, you can enjoy offline messaging, group chats, free text messages, file transfers, greeting cards, games, and even a searchable user directory.
ICQ is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and via a web portal.
Pidgin takes a leaf out of eBuddy’s book – it aggregates chat services from multiple third-party clients into a single easy-to-use interface.
It supports well-known services like Bonjour and ICQ, as well as lots of less common apps like Sametime and Gadu-Gadu. Interestingly, it also works with IRC.
If your chat app of choice isn’t natively supported, don’t worry. Pidgin has an extensive library of plug-ins, many of which bring functionality to additional chat clients.
The free-to-use app is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux. There are no mobile clients available.
4. Nimbuzz [No Longer Available]
Nimbuzz is best described as “WhatsApp meets ICQ.” The app has all the instant messaging features you would expect to see, but there are a couple that really stand out.
The first is its compatibility. It has perhaps the broadest selection of apps out of all the services on this list. Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Kindles are supported, as are less-common mobile manufacturers like Blackberry and Nokia. There’s also a web portal.
Secondly is N-World. Short for “Nimbuzz World,” the service lets you collect or purchase an array of virtual items like gifts, avatars, virtual chat buddies, and games.
Thirdly, it supports voice calls. This separates it from some of the other apps on the list. Video calling is only available on the desktop clients and the iPhone app.
And finally, it offers group chats based around a certain topic. This lets you follow sporting events, concerts, and other public gatherings in real-time with like-minded people.
5. Yahoo Messenger
Another app that’s been around for a long time but that’s still going strong is Yahoo Messenger. It debuted in 1998 as Yahoo Pager but quickly rebranded to its current name in 1999.
You can download and use the app as long as you have a Yahoo ID. Like Google, a Yahoo ID will also provide you with an @yahoo email address, along with access to some of the company’s other services. Given Yahoo’s ongoing security issues, you might want to think twice about signing up if you’re not already a member.
In 2016, it looked like the service might be coming to an end; Yahoo closed its Windows, Mac, Linux, and Solaris clients. However, fast-forward a year, and it’s clear the company hopes the app can make a comeback – a new Windows app is available, with a Mac app reportedly in the works. The mobile app is available on Android and iOS.
Yahoo Messenger lets you Like messages, send GIFs, and – if you use your Yahoo email address – chat from directly within its web client.
The app is ad-supported.
Remember, if not of these apps suit your needs, almost every social network now offers some form of instant messaging tool. They include Facebook, Google Plus (via Google Hangouts), Snapchat, and Instagram.
And if you’re looking for WhatsApp alternatives, you also have plenty of choice. Check out Viber, Line, Telegram, and WeChat. We’ve covered them all in detail elsewhere on the site.
Which Instant Messenger Apps Do You Use?
In this article, we’ve introduced you to five online instant messaging services that are still worth checking out.
To recap, Yahoo, ICQ, and Nimbuzz all run their own closed chat services, whereas Pidgin and eBuddy both aggregate other common chat clients into a single interface.
Now it’s over to you. We want to hear what you think. Are you one of the millions of people around the world who still use instant message desktop apps rather than services like WhatsApp? What makes the apps so appealing? And more importantly, which apps would you add to this list?
As always, you can leave all your thoughts, opinions, and suggestions in the comments below. And please remember to share this article with your followers on social media.
Image Credit: nils.ackermann.gmail.com/Depositphotos