Thanks to the popularity of instant messaging, you can find a variety of all-in-one instant messengers to choose from. Each offers different features and functions that are similar to proprietary instant messenger clients like AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) or Yahoo Messenger. Many all-in-one messengers are available for free, though some include advertisements unless you pay a fee.
In an all-in-one instant messenger, you can connect to each instant message service by adding accounts. An account in the messenger configuration includes the necessary information to connect to one instant message service using an existing profile for that service. User interface menus like "Accounts" or "Connections" let you manage your profiles, including controlling which accounts should connect when you start the application.
Each all-in-one messenger connects to a select group of services using their instant message protocols. The protocol is the set of networking rules that allow you to exchange data on a certain instant message service. Some protocols are used by multiple services, such the OSCAR protocol used by AIM and ICQ.
All-in-one instant messengers are available for both computers and smartphones. Some messengers have a wizard when you first open them that prompts you to add one or more accounts. When you've installed and set up your new all-in-one messenger, browse the interface and documentation to learn more about all its features.
Web-based instant messengers like Meebo give you the freedom to go anywhere. Instead of installing an application onto each computer, you can create an account to use the Web application and access it from any Web browser. You can add and manage accounts in the Web application, and you can instantly connect to those accounts each time you log in to the Web site. Features for Web-based messengers may be more limited that those you'd install on your computer, but you might prefer the mobility.
Go on to the next page to read about the technology behind these all-in-one instant messengers.