Everybody knows that Gmail is great for consolidating multiple email accounts into one place that’s easy to search, organize, backup, and get out of. What less people know is that it’s also a great place to consolidate your instant messenger accounts, too!
Watch out, this article is pretty long and gets quite nerdy at the end.
Some background information (and a few rants)We’re going to talk about merging accounts from different instant messaging services (Gtalk, MSN, ICQ, etc.) so let’s get this out of the door first: yes, I could use programs like Pidgin or Trillian to log into all those networks simultaneously, but I’d still have to search in at least two places when it comes to past communications, and that’s without considering problems like chat history being only stored locally on one computer, which means I then have to sync that with my other computers using Dropbox or Mesh. Also, it’s really way to simple for my tastes. There’s a better, more complicated and geek-fulfilling way.
Google made the very good decision of using Jabber, a.k.a. XMPP, an open protocol, to implement their own instant messaging system Gtalk. As usual with Google, though, they didn’t quite follow the standard entirely but it’s compatible enough for what I need… mostly. The other good thing with Google is that they integrated the whole thing into Gmail so that chats are searchable along with emails, which is what I’m after, here. Some people may be uncomfortable with the privacy implications, but those people probably don’t use Google services anyway (why would you trust them with your emails or videos or pictures but not chats?). In fact, people worried about privacy probably don’t use many web services in general, unless they’re one of those weirdoes who actually read the whole terms of services and really compare them (I don’t even know if such weirdoes exist). Besides, when you start worrying about privacy, you generally end up setting up your own email server, which then makes you worry about other things like backup, whitelisting/greylisting, encryption, etc… Anyway.
So what then? Well, the XMPP protocol has things called “transports” who basically translate to and from other IM networks like MSN, Yahoo and others. That’s the way we’ll consolidate all our IM networks into Gmail!