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.


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.