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If your users must IM, at least spare them from using adware

IM clients from the biggies--AOL, Yahoo, MSN and so on--are full of annoying advertising. Spare your users from the sales pitch and put the focus back on communication by providing alternative client software. William Jones looks at Adium and Pidgin.

IM clients from the biggies—AOL, Yahoo, MSN and so on—are full of annoying advertising. Spare your users from the sales pitch and put the focus back on communication by providing alternative client software. William Jones looks at Adium and Pidgin.

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For many enterprises, instant messaging has become a vital part of communicating across teams. If your organization can't afford a dedicated messaging platform, free services from AOL and Yahoo can get you in the door, but their client apps are restrictive and full of ad content. By looking past the obvious, you can provide your clients a better way to IM.

Pidgin is an open source IM client for Windows and Unix-like operating systems. In addition to doing away with the advertising present in the subsidized clients, Pidgin supports multiple chat protocols. This means that your users can chat with Google Talk users and ICQ denizens from the same application. For every help desk tech that's had to watch Windows bog down under the weight of trying to launch 3 or 4 IM apps on startup, one ring to rule them all is a welcome thing.

Pidgin isn't available as a binary for OS X, but there's an open source application called Adium that's equally good. Like Pidgin, Adium supports most common chat implementations.

It's entirely possible that your organization doesn't want its employees chatting with their friends online when they should be working. That's cool; Pidgin and Adium can still facilitate your company's goals. Since they both support the open source Jabber instant messaging protocol, you can set up a Jabber server on your corporate network, and let your firewall block distractions from buddies on the outside. Jabber-compatible services are built into Mac OS X Server, or you can visit project's site for a list of compatible chat servers you can install on your LAN. Many of these servers are open source themselves.

IM may not be for everyone, or for every office, but it is possible to take advantage of it without suffering through ad content.

9 comments
Kgatto
Kgatto

If you don't want your employees chatting with their friends then just get an IM for business that they will not use with their friends. One of my clients uses a business IM called Brosix to do this. They install it on their networks, and pre-populate the contact listing. No fuss, no muss.

Jaqui
Jaqui

and mac and windows also have gaim. another multi protocol app for most im systems. Linux, solaris and the bsds have the option of kopete as well. Kopete requires that you have the kdebase installed, since it is a kde app. Gaim and Kopete both also will support video chats with the im services that support them, naturally, they have to have that service supported also. all im systems concidered, irc is still the best one. it isn't im per-se, but it's stable, reliable and gives every user the option of logging any single conversation or not. IRC can also be setup to be an intranet service only, for use within the company, or can be integrated with the client support for use as a live chat on the company website.

williamjones
williamjones

In my office, I include chat clients on our standard software build. That's because our University runs it's own chat servers, though, and we can make sure that conversations stay within the office. In my most recent post I discuss the IM clients we use. What about in your office? Do you support Instant Messaging? What are your concerns about the trade-offs involved? How much does it really get used for work? We've been able to demonstrate that IM saves us from having as many meetings, and lets us avoid long email exchanges to settle simple matters. So for us, occasional distraction is work the productivity gains we've seen. What about you?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

But it's still the same old fantastic program even with a Maemo build for us NIT owners. Within business I'd look for something that can transfer authentication and content by encryption though; most of the Pidgin protocols authenticate with plaintext; MSN, ICQ, Yahoo. I'd also look for something that didn't provide the support for additional protocols so you could lock it too your internal server that way among other's. We're using Microsoft's "me too" offering since it integrates with everything else Redmond has been kind enough to bill our company through the nose for. I'm far removed from the tech decision making though so I have to assume it was the best of all possible options when they made the choice.

martian
martian

For those on Windows based systems, there is also Miranda IM that also supports multiple protocols (Yahoo, MSN, ICQ etc) and there's also a portable version that works right off a USB thumb drive. The interface is not great, but I look at the "it does the job" factor instead of "prettyness" in the interface...

Jaqui
Jaqui

that irc can use gnu_tls or openssl for encryption. [ including authentication I think ] it can even work with an sql db back end for user data, like priviledges and authentication via the dbe.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I love that software is now evolving back into something that can run out of a single folder though it takes a wrapper to do it for most of what is hosted at portableapps. You've reminded me that I need to check for newer versions and see if the portablePidgin is available yet. I thought I had on my flashdrive already as portablegaim but I'm too lazy to go look right now. Any program that is available across platforms and has a Windows portable if not also a Linux portable app is worth looking at. (KeepassX; across platforms with both Linux based and Windows portable versions.. I love it.)

Jaqui
Jaqui

support chat via company ebsite. cgiirc script makes it so no extra software needed by customers. nd can be configured to automatically connect them o the support channel, even hide all other channels and non op users from them.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

You don't get the handy and ever-present list of contacts unless teams all join the same #channels but that is another solution especially if you can encrypt the entire thing from first port open through the client disconnection. Gah.. it's been so long I often overlook the old IRC systems.

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