Top 10 Web-Based Instant Messengers

No more downloading messenger software - just login from your web browser and chat away.


There was a time when instant messengers were a few hundred KB per client, and there weren’t too many. Today, there are three major chat clients—MSN/Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and Google Talk—and while Google Talk is small enough right now, it’s only a matter of time before it bloats into the 20mb package that the other two are almost competing to reach. If you’re done with all the stupid extras like IMvironments and Winks, and all you want to do is chat, then consider using a web-based messenger that works purely in your web browser, without needing any download or installation.

Alternatively, if your office doesn’t let you install messengers and/or chat during work hours, then you probably shouldn’t do so, but if you still feel the insatiable urge to do so, these web-based messengers are here for your aid. Some of these are popular and may already be blocked by your sysadmins, but there are some new ones here. You’d just better hope your sysadmins don’t visit Tech2.com too often!

Meebo
Meebo is simply the best web-based instant messenger I have ever used. Not only does it look clean, polished and very true Windows application-like, it also behaves exactly like one, courtesy of some really detailed JavaScript, XHTML and CSS. It also makes full use of AJAX, so it never feels like a website. Meebo is a perfect example of Web 2.0 and is the benchmark for all competing services. It runs inside just one browser window or tab, spawning multiple DIV-based conversation windows that don’t take up any extra taskbar space or memory, but you can pop a window out of the browser if you want to. The only problem with Meebo is that its interface looks exactly like some of the older, cleaner versions of Yahoo! Messenger and it doesn’t change even when you’re connected to MSN/Windows Live Messenger or something else.

Meebo lets you connect to MSN/Windows Live Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk and also Jabber. Meebo also has a universal Meebo login option which saves all your account passwords, so you don’t have to enter four or five passwords every time you visit the site. Passwords are encrypted before sending them to the servers for logging in.

eBuddy
Formerly called e-Messenger, eBuddy was one of the first web-based messengers online. Consequently, it hasn’t changed much – it still uses regular old school HTML frames, tables and page refreshes. It doesn’t run in a single window, instead, using popups for contact lists as well as conversations.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, it makes you sign in to each messenger service separately, popping up a window for each service. There’s no universal login concept on eBuddy, which means you’ll have to type in five logins and passwords everytime you want to go online and chat.

eBuddy does MSN/Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger, all in both classic as well as There is no Google Talk, Jabber or ICQ support here – not that anybody still uses ICQ.

eBuddy does redeem itself by offering a mobile-friendly service accessible on mob.ebuddy.com.

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ILoveIM
ILoveIM is half way between eBuddy and Meebo. It uses a bit of new web techniques and AJAX, using just one browser window for the contact list as well as conversation windows which are DIV-based and floating (i.e. you can move them around the page), but it only does one messenger service at one go. You’ll have to open multiple browser windows or tabs and login to each service separately. Moreover, it doesn’t look as pretty as Meebo.

ILoveIM supports MSN/Windows Live Messenger in classic as well as the new form, AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger. Once again, no Google Talk, Jabber or ICQ.

Kool IM
Kool IM comes right after Meebo in terms of functionality, but it’s the most unpopular of the lot, and there’s a few reasons why. Like Meebo, it let’s you login to all the popular messenger services – MSN/Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, Google Talk—at the same time. It does, however, pop out the actual contact list window, and each conversation gets its own window, but this may be convenient to those who are used to conventional instant messengers that each take up a task bar item, but not to those who prefer to tuck away all their conversations in one window for easy dismissal. It looks quite nice, but beyond that, it’s a very basic messenger. It doesn’t support smileys!

Messages Sur Le Net 2 Go
This relatively unknown service only does MSN/Windows Live Messenger, and that too, via a Java applet. This one is also basic, supporting no smileys or colors in the conversation window or even the contact list window, which is devoid of any icons. MSN2Go claims to have HTTP proxy support, which is nice, but this is only important because it’s a Java application. The other services work within the browser, so they automatically take your HTTP proxy. But since it’s so unpopular, you might just be able to get this one working if your office sysadmin has blocked everything else.

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MessengerFX
MessengerFX is like Meebo, again, but it only does MSN/Windows Live Messenger. It makes very good use of new web techniques and AJAX, including movable windows and sound alerts. It looks decent enough, but the typography and CSS is a little rough around the edges and there are way too many Google ads all over the pages. They aren’t intrusive, but they’re still littered all over.

The next bunch of clients are original offered by the same people who made the software, not by some third-party users. Naturally, each of them will only support their own messenger.

MSN Web Messenger
This should need no introduction. MSN Web Messenger is the original, official web-based client for MSN Messenger. It looks and feels almost exactly like MSN Messenger 7.x, including all icons, smileys and window trims. The main contact list window pops out on its own, and each conversation window also pops out. But even though the web-based client looks just like the original client, it doesn’t offer features that competing web-based messengers offer, such as being able to right click a user in the contact list for more options (i.e. viewing his or her profile). The other issue with MSN Web Messenger is that, since it’s the official alternative, it’s probably already blocked by your office sysadmin.

Yahoo! Web Messenger
Yeah, it still exists, but it doesn’t seem like there's a lot of work going on over this project – it’s still quite dated and uses Java. It does smileys, but no IMvironments, of course. It looks okay, quite similar to the old clients that didn’t come with a lot of completely unnecessary stuff that the recent versions come with. And what’s funny is that Meebo looks more like Yahoo! Messenger than this original web-based messenger!

To use Yahoo! Web Messenger, visit the Yahoo! Messenger website and find the ‘Launch Web Messenger’ link hidden away around the bottom of the page.

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AIM Express
Not many of us have an AOL Instant Messenger account or even the need to have one, so not many sysadmins would feel the need to go and block AIM, at least in India. But if you’re one of the few AIM screen name holders, you’re in luck, as AIM Express is AOL’s official, original web-based client for their instant messenger. I had some trouble logging into it while I was writing this, so I couldn’t take a screenshot, but I’ll try it again later.

ICQ2Go
People still use ICQ? No, not in India. At least I don’t know anyone who knows anyone who uses ICQ today. But why leave the list incomplete? ICQ2Go is the official web-based client for ICQ, one of the first instant messengers in the world. The client, being completely Flash-based, gives it full application-like flexibility, including fancy window sliding effects and all the original sounds that we’ve grown up with. ICQ2Go offers a good amount of settings, almost like the full ICQ application, and it also is SMS-enabled, if anyone still uses that feature.

Google Talk via Gmail
This is actually the 11th item in this list of top '10' web-based instant messengers, and it’s also the most popular and utilized one, but I didn’t feel it right to include somewhat obscure links like MSN2Go and exclude Google Talk via Gmail.

Eleven is a lot of options to choose from, but there’s always room for more. Especially when these get very popular and consequently useless. I think I’ve covered pretty much each and every web-based instant messenger here, but if I’ve missed out any, post a comment and enlighten me.


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