i(Multi-Protocol)Chat

September 09, 2003

One of the few pieces of software that I miss from Windows was the multi-protocol chat client Trillian. This free gem allowed me to be simultaneously connected to the 4 major chat services: AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and ICQ. Having been an early chat adopter (ICQ: 292099) I have enjoyed using instant messaging for several years now.

Trillian was nice because it worked. Sure there were skins and nifty non-chat related extras included, but at the end of the day it was a solid IM chat client.

On Mac OS X there are two multi-protocol chat clients: Fire and Proteus. I have tried both, and found both to be lacking. Fire has promise, but it doesn't support any kind of proxy connection ability so I am unable to use it from my work location. Also it has seen no releases or improvements in months.

Proteus has some very nice features, including a tabbed approach to handling multiple chats in one window. Version 2.x didn't support proxy connections, but the recently released version 3.0 did. However it is a partial solution supporting HTTPS only, and not HTTP. Again, I am unable to connect from my work location.

I think the real problem is that Proteus is almost good enough for all people for all situations. Developers who might want to develop a competing product would have to go a long way to equal what Proteus already has in place. And without competition, Proteus is motivated to step up their production rate.

Proteus would be the tool if they would refocus on pure chat functionality first, and adding extras later. Just because the developer is intimidated by the complexities of HTTP proxy coding is no reason to skip this vital component of a truly good chat tool.

There maybe a bright spot on the horizon in the form of the 2.0 release of Adium. The developers there have a good AIM clone going, and have expressed a desire to include gaim (the open source multi-chat tool) in their code base. Now if they just would add proxy support, they would have the ultimate Mac OS multi-protocol chat tool.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.