There are many ways you can conduct real-time communication with other people online. The most popular method is instant messaging, which has existed since the 1970s. There are also other methods, such as Internet Relay Chat and Internet telephony.
Instant messengers allow you to communicate in real-time with one or more individuals. To use an IM client requires you to have an account with a protocol, such as AIM and Yahoo. In addition, you can only have conversations with people who are using the same protocol.
Pidgin, formerly Gaim, is the default client for Ubuntu. Gaim comes preinstalled, but if desired, you can upgrade to Pidgin by downloading the source package. Two features many complain about Pidgin/Gaim is the lack of the audio and video capabilities.
Pidgin/Gaim has multiple protocols, allowing you to automatically access one or more protocols at the same time. The protocols featured with Pidgin/Gaim are:
- Jabber (XMPP)
These protocols are for Pidgin only:
Gajim is a free client under the GNU General Public License, and it is mainly used for the Jabber (XMPP) protocol. It supports tabbed chat windows, group chat support with the MUC protocol, and many others. It can also be used for other protocols, such as AIM, ICQ, and Yahoo.
There are other IM clients you can use:
Kopete - KDE-based messenger that uses many of the popular protocols. Also handles IRC.
aMSN - MSN clone that has video capabilities, but lacks many features MSN provides.
- SIM-IM - Simple Instant Messenger which supports a few protocols.
Internet Relay Chat
IRC is a form of real-time communication designed for groups. Users can go to a specific channel on the IRC network to seek assistance and general talk. It is not necessary to have an IRC account, but it is preferred. Ubuntu uses freenode for its IRC channels, although there are other IRC networks. Here is a list of IRC commands you can use in a channel.
While you can use certain web browsers (Opera) or IM clients (Pidgin/Gaim and Kopete), most users utilize an application specific towards IRC.
Ubuntu-Arizona's channel is #ubuntu-arizona. It is also good to follow the IRC Guidelines whenever you are in a channel.
XChat is a popular IRC client. This graphical application is easy to use for beginners, and experience people like its simplicity. You can install XChat through the Ubuntu repositories.
There are other IRC clients you can use. While Pidgin/Gaim and Kopete use the IRC protocol, here are a few other IRC exclusive clients:
- Loqui - a graphical client that has similar features with XChat.
Konversation - KDE-based graphical client.
KVIrc - an alternative KDE-based client that supports simultaneous connections to multiple servers.
Voice over IP (VoIP), or Internet telephony, is the ability to hold voice communications through the Internet. There are a few clients that over both free and paid service for Ubuntu.
Ekiga comes already installed in Ubuntu. It uses both SIP and H.323 protocols, and it is compatible with most VoIP clients, with the exception of Skype and Google Talk. Ekiga allows you to have audio and video calls through the Internet.
Skype is a popular client for many users. This is a proprietary application that is free to use, and you can also pay for additional services. Skype is not available in the Ubuntu repositories, but you can download the .deb package and install it using the GDebi Package Installer.
There are a few other alternatives you can use for VoIP.
Wengophone - French VoIP provider that has similar features as Skype.
Twinkle - open source client that has many features, but does not support video.
KPhone - another open source client which supports both audio and video.