Multi-messengers help you get all your communications in one place
By Jan Kluczniok May 2, 2010, 16:53 GMT
Munich - Do you have your contacts with Facebook, your chats with ICQ and your phone calls via Skype?
Most web surfers use a whole range of communications options. But that means keeping multiple websites and applications open around the clock to remain accessible, since most of these platforms aren't compatible with one another. That takes up space on your monitor and a lot of system resources.
But there is help, in the form of multiprotocol messengers.
About 40 per cent of internet users are engaged in multiple social networks and communicate with their friends via two instant messengers (IM), according to a study by the University of Augsburg in Germany.
'Our study numbers from the last two years make it clear that the various communication formats only cannibalise from one another to a small degree,' says Klaus Turowski, a university professor. That means that anyone who starts using a second messenger programme will probably keep on using the first.
That's when a multiprotocol messenger might come in handy. These applications let users manage multiple social networks and IMs.
'I only have to start one programme, register there and then am immediately in contact with all my relevant IM networks,' says Urs Mansmann of c't, a German computer magazine.
There's a variety of such programmes that can be downloaded free from the internet. The best-known are Miranda and Trillian. Both are constantly being updated. Their current versions allow users to track chats in popular IM systems like AOL, ICQ and MSN, as well as on Facebook. Plug-ins can be used to expand their capabilities.
Both have one important thing in common: they have to be installed onto the hard drive. If that's not an option, there are web-based multiprotocol messengers, including Meebo and imo.im. Both allow chats via Facebook, ICQ and the like directly in a browser window.
But before rushing to install one of these systems and uninstalling existing messenger programmes, it's good to run some intensive tests. After all, not every potential solution includes the entire function range of the original programmes.
'Most IM networks set up proprietary protocols: their own standards that don't follow any standard,' says Mansmann. That means developers of multiprotocol messengers have to recreate some of those unique protocols, which they can't always do completely.
Transmitting text messages back and forth usually isn't much of a problem. But only a few programmes can support functions like data transmissions, telephoning and video. That means it's always best to at least partially install the original software.
'For example, to use Skype with some programmes, the Skype software has to be installed,' says Mansmann. 'That sets up the multimedia part.'
Multiprotocol managers used to be the province of small software firms or open source projects. But big names have started to get involved. Thus, users of Microsoft's webmail service Hotmail can directly answer Facebook messages via their system without having to log in to the social network.
Additionally, the Social Connector plug-in allows email programme Outlook to access networks like LinkedIn, Facebook or Xing. Meanwhile, ICQ's Version 7 notifies users when contacts update their Facebook status, tweet on Twitter or upload pictures to Flickr.