• Editors' rating
    5.2 OK


  • Works on multiple platforms
  • can chat with other Jabber-compliant messengers across platforms
  • slick text conference rooms for multiperson chat.


  • Doesn't work with ICQ and AIM
  • little privacy protection
  • can send files only to other Jabber users.

Jabber Instant Messenger (JabberIM) is based on an open source messaging protocol, which means that it's just one of a whole host of clients written on the same base code for about every platform under the sun, from Unix and Linux to Mac and Mozilla. But to you, Jabber is an IM that promises to combine all your contacts from AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and ICQ into one list that will turn your head. Too bad Jabber hasn't improved much since we first reviewed it nearly a year ago. Trillian is the real interoperable star, whereas Jabber is still clunky. Unless you want to install a low-cost (or even no-cost) instant-messaging server for your business, give Jabber a miss.

Because the Jabber standard doesn't belong to any one individual or company, anyone can write an IM client to it (visit JabberCentral for a list of nearly 40 clients that work on a variety of operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Linux and Unix). Since these clients all share the same technology, you can message anyone using a Jabber client. That makes Jabber a smart selection if you're communicating with Linux, Mac and Unix types, for example. Jabber also offers Jabber Everywhere, a messaging server -- ideal for small to medium-sized businesses or institutions that want one IM platform for all of their messaging and conferencing needs.

You won't mistake JabberIM for a top-of-the-line client such as Yahoo Messenger. Jabber has a tiny RAM footprint, just 3MB -- nice and unobtrusive, especially compared to ICQ's 3.7MB. The interface is plain: a roster of buddies that you can organise into groups, plus a few icons for adding new pals, changing your online status and creating multiparty conference rooms. JabberIM's messaging window is a basic split-screen display that offers a place to type your message and another section that shows the ongoing conversation.

Our favourite JabberIM feature is its text-chat conference rooms. You can instantly create private chat rooms, specify that these rooms are by invitation only, hide them (so that others using the server can't search for and find them) and make them permanent (so that they're always available for quick conferences). And, if you're taken with the idea of messaging on the Web, try out Jabber's WebClient. Like AIM Express, this program doesn't require you to download anything; it opens up a separate window on the desktop instead.

At the moment, JabberIM still struggles to integrate with other IMs. We easily configured JabberIM to connect to MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger servers, but, in our tests, we couldn't connect to AIM or ICQ. Jabber admits to the problem, but says that the ICQ problems may be outside its control and that AOL is blocking access. However, Trillian and Odigo can manage both AOL and ICQ just fine.

Without interoperability, you have to take JabberIM on its other merits, and they're few. Although you can transfer files (only to other Jabber users -- not to pals on, say, MSN or Yahoo) -- and keep message logs, this IM lacks voice and video chat and comes with only crude privacy features. The only way to keep weirdos at bay is a weak blocking tool.

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Despite its meagre features, JabberIM offers decent tech support, including a well-stocked online help site complete with a FAQ file, a searchable database and online documents explaining the intricacies of various Jabber programs. If you need more help, you can email or instant-message the help desk. Chat is available only during business hours on weekdays. Other than that, you're on your own: Jabber's support is geared towards businesses who opt for Jabber Everywhere and buyers of its other products, rather than those of us sitting frustrated at home.

Unless you're thinking of deploying an IM server in your organisation or business, JabberIM is a poor choice. Standalone IM clients such as Yahoo Messenger offer editions in almost as many platform flavours, and Trillian beats JabberIM hands down in the multiservice tussle.