In the movie Sneakers, Martin Bishop (played by Robert Redford) is trying to steal a little black box from professor Gunter Janic who felt there were too many secret codes in the world. In fact Bishop discovers that the name of Janic’s fictitious company, “SETEC Astronomy”, is really a scrambled version of “too many secrets”. That’s kind of how I feel about Instant Messenger programs. Everyone has a service they prefer (Yahoo!, MSN, AIM, ICQ, etc) which takes away some of the practicality of using instant messenger software in the first place. It is kind of like saying you can only send e-mails to other people who use your same e-mail service. In the movie Sneakers, Janic’s solution to the too many secrets problem was the invention of the little black box that could decoded any encryption on any online system. Wouldn’t it be great if Janic had created a little black box to get all of the instant messenger programs talking to each other? Well even though he was killed by Cosmo before he had the chance, fortunately someone else has done it.
Using the XML protocols established by Jabber, several companies have made Instant Messenger programs that will let you see all of your buddies from all of the major chat systems. And best of all, it’s free! Many free instant messenger apps can be found at www.jabber.org/software/clients.php. Rumor has it that Google will soon be releasing their own Jabber-based IM software as well, which will undoubtedly be the best on the market (if it is consistent with their other products like gMail). Until then, my recommendation is Fire by Epicware – that’s for Mac OS X, but there are a ton of Windows clients too for you PC users on the Jabber site.
So bring all of your buddies together and have a grand old IMing time, and if you haven’t seen Sneakers yet, go to Blockbuster ASAP.