How to Chat on Any IM Network From Within Gmail

Chris Hoffman 25-06-2012

Google Talk, which powers Gmail’s built-in chat feature, isn’t a proprietary instant-messaging network. It’s built on top of the XMPP standard, also known as Jabber, so you can connect Gmail’s chat feature to any IM network. Some networks like AIM are interoperable with Gmail, while some like MSN and Yahoo require special Jabber transports.


Like traditional XMPP clients, Google Talk 6 Reasons GTalk Is the Best Free Instant Messaging Service Read More supports Jabber transports – allowing you to communicate with other IM networks from within Gmail The Beginner's Guide to Gmail You may already have a Gmail account. Or, you're thinking about signing up for one. This guide has everything you need to make the most of that shiny new Gmail account. Read More . These Jabber transports, also known as gateways, are run by third-parties. All your IM conversations will be logged and searchable How To Search Emails In Gmail Efficiently Read More in your Gmail account.


AOL Instant Messenger is interoperable with Gmail. To add an AIM contact to Gmail, add, where screenname is the contact’s AIM screen name. You can also add any other XMPP or Jabber address in the form AOL even has a special tool that will automatically import your AIM buddies to your Gmail contact list.

gmail chat

When you add an address directly like this, your contacts will see your Gmail address instead of your AIM username. Transports work differently, giving you the same account name on the other instant-messaging service – for example, if you add an MSN transport, contacts will see your standard MSN address and not your Gmail address. They’ll have no indication you’re using a transport.

Potential Problems With Transports

We’re going a bit off the beaten path here. Transport servers aren’t run by Google or the instant-messaging networks and may be unreliable, occasionally going down. Giving a transport service your IM account passwords Use A Password Management Strategy To Simplify Your Life Much of the advice around passwords has been near-impossible to follow: use a strong password containing numbers, letters and special characters; change it regularly; come up with a completely unique password for each account etc.... Read More and routing your instant messages through it can also be a security and privacy concern. If you’re on the techier side, though, you can run your own Jabber transports on your own server.


Jabber Transport Setup

You can’t register with Jabber transports from within Gmail, so we’ll need another Jabber client for the setup process. We’ll be using Psi, a popular, cross-platform Jabber client for the initial setup process. This setup process is only necessary once – after registering with some transports, you can close Psi or uninstall it entirely. Download and install Psi, disabling automatic startup during the installation process.

After installing Psi, log in with your Gmail address. You’ll need an application-specific password if you’re using two-factor authentication with Google Authenticator Google Recommends 2-Step Process To Protect Your Account [News] Most savvy Internet users probably have at one at least Google account - mainly because Google, for good or bad, crosses paths with so many other websites that it's hard to avoid not using the... Read More

gmail im chat

After entering your account information, set your status to Online in Psi, click the General menu, and select Service Discovery.


gmail im chat

You’ll be informed that Gmail doesn’t implement any services we can register with. That’s alright – click OK to continue.

gmail im chat

Google doesn’t offer any transports, so we’ll need to find a Jabber server that offers transports we can subscribe to. You can find a list of public Jabber servers at – unfortunately, there’s no way to see which servers offer transports on the page. Plug a Jabber server’s address into the Service Discovery window and to view the services it offers. For example, if we plug in, we’ll see that it offers several services – but no transports.


gmail im app

Try another one like and – jackpot – we see a variety of available transports. This server offers transports for AIM, ICQ, IRC, Yahoo and other networks. If you’re looking for an MSN transport, you’ll want to continue looking for another server that offers an MSN transport. For example, some people have reported success with

To use a transport, right-click it and select Register. You’ll be prompted to enter your username and password for the service – here we’d enter our AIM screen name and password. (Remember that you can use AIM from Gmail without setting up a transport, but this process will be the same if you’re setting up a transport for MSN, Yahoo, IRC The Top 7 Best Free IRC Clients for Windows 7 For most of us, chatrooms might seem like a relic of the past, but they're still around. If you're interested in that sort of thing, you’ll want to look into the IRC protocol. For those... Read More , or any other network.)

gmail im app


The transport will appear on your Psi buddy list. It offers to add your contacts from the other IM network to your Google Talk contact list – authorize the contact-adding.

gmail im app

Within Gmail, you’ll now see contacts from the other IM networks on your contact list. Mouse over them and note the format – I added the AIM transport at, so the contact’s address is If I wanted to add another screen name to my buddy list, I’d add their AIM screen name and append

gmail chat

The transport is now connected to your account and you can now talk to the other network from within Gmail or any other Google Talk client How To Chat On Google Talk (Without Leaving Your Browser) No Matter What Website You're On There’s one thing about Gtalk that really bothers me. I can only see it when I’m in the Gmail tab, and I easily miss new messages because the only notification I get is when the... Read More . You can close Psi – you’ll only need it if you want to set up another Jabber transport. The transport sits in between you and the other instant-messaging network.

How did this work for you?  Let us know in the comments.

Related topics: Gmail, Instant Messaging, Online Chat.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Vampie C.
    June 26, 2012 at 7:13 am

    This is great.

    But I suppose that I need to do that on every pc where I want to have that functionality?


    • Chris Hoffman
      June 27, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      Nope, it'll work everywhere! The Psi process is just a one-time setup process -- after you do this, Google Talk's servers will communicate with your transport normally.

      • cesare catania
        November 2, 2012 at 2:16 pm

        Hi!! :-)

        I'm just a civil enigineer; I wolud like to tell U that your tips R very usefull.

        I have been working with wondows XP untill 2 years ago but now I prefer Ubuntu.

        Very compliment for your work.

        Best regards

        Cesare Catania

  2. Johann
    June 26, 2012 at 1:53 am

    Might also like to mention that you can add SRV records to your DNS in order to enable access to IM on Google *Apps* too. Whereas Gmail->Google Apps IM works out of the box, other XMPP/Jabber service obviously don't unless you do this as they have no way of knowing your IM servers.

    • Chris Hoffman
      June 27, 2012 at 10:28 pm

      Wow, interesting tip -- very smart idea. Thanks!