For most average users, Pidgin (formerly Gaim) fits the bill best. It’s easy-to-use, cleanly-designed, and very functional. It supports AIM, ICQ, Google Talk, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, IRC, Jabber, Gadu-Gadu, and Zephyr IM networks and is available for multiple platforms.
The interface is basic but functional — nobody’s going to be blown away by its styling, but many users may appreciate the simplicity and lack of popups. There is some customization available through Guifications as well.
Being non-commercial, open-source software makes it even easier to support. I can confidently recommend Pidgin as the first choice for a multi-protocol IM client.
Now, if you’re a power user and want support for more networks and the ability to add features via plug-ins, then definitely check out Miranda IM.
In addition to the networks supported by Trillian, it has native support for Gadu-Gadu and Jabber (it also will connect to the Google Talk network with a little plug-in tweaking). Its interface is minimalist, but the application is very extensible through plug-ins.
If you’re looking for something with a bit more style, Trillian is a solid option. It has a flashy interface and is designed to be very user-friendly. It is also surprisingly light on resources. It supports the AIM, ICQ, IRC, MSN, Yahoo networks, Skype, Facebook, Google Talk as well as many more. Many users will be impressed with the eye-candy and cutomizablility of Trillian’s interface, while others might be turned off by its busyness and occasionally cluttered design.
It should be noted that Trillian requires users to create and log in to a Trillian account—but this also means Trillian stores their other networks so you won’t need to re-enter your login information each time you install Trillian on a new PC.
If you’re looking to use multi-protocol IM networks without downloading any software clients, then your best choice would be Meebo. With Meebo you can log in to any of your IM networks, including: AIM, Yahoo, Google, MSN, ICQ, Jabber & Meebo, all from one page.
This is a great choice if you are using a computer which you cannot or don’t want to install new software on, such as a public PC. With its vast extra language support, it adds a lot of flexibility.
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