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Digsby: Instant Messaging for Web 2.0

written by: •edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 12/31/2008
4

Instant Messaging has been around for some time, with clients like Trillian standing out because of their ability to handle multiple protocols. Now an IM client has arrived that takes this to the next level. Read on for a review of Digsby, the new contender for the instant messaging crown.

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    Instant Messaging for the Facebook Generation

    I admit it: I am a geek. I live most of my life online. I work, play, communicate, and learn through the best tool I feel humanity has created, the internet, and I know I am not alone. There are many of you out there who understand what I mean when I say that the internet is "home".

    So when it comes to things like instant messengers, social media services, and other online technology, I am both willing to try everything and incredibly picky about what I end up using. When a new service or application launches, I am one of the first in line, but I am also reluctant to adopt new products for actual daily use. When it comes to Digsby, however, I am sold.

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    Services

    Rating Average

    Digsby supports multiple instant messaging protocols:

    • AOL Instant Messenger
    • ICQ
    • MSN
    • Yahoo Messenger
    • Google Talk
    • Jabber
    • Facebook Chat

    It also supports multiple email protocols:

    • Gmail
    • Yahoo! Mail
    • Hotmail
    • AOL Mail
    • + any POP or IMAP accounts.

    But that is not what makes it special. It also supports multiple social media sites:

    • Facebook
    • MySpace
    • and all-importantly: Twitter!

    Now, I know it could have more social networks, but considering the application is still in beta testing, I am sure we can expect new protocols to be included soon (hint: Ping.fm).

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    Stability

    Rating Average

    I have not had a single crash, lag out, or stutter from this application. It has not given me a moment's grief, uses almost no CPU cycles, and has a memory footprint of approximately 12-24 megabytes depending on how many services you are receiving updates from.

    However, the memory footprint seems to balloon up to around 100 megabytes after awhile when you get a lot of updates. Whether this is an actual memory leak or some kind of caching I am unsure, because it never seems to go higher than that. If you have the memory to spare, you never notice it, but this might be a problem for people with less than a gigabyte of RAM to work with.

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    Look and Feel

    Rating Average

    The interface is clean and the notifications are well-done, with informative little transparencies. However, there are too many little features for the main buddy-list, which makes finding the option you want difficult. Another annoyance is that in order to add new contacts, you have to go into a menu and open up a network specific dialogue. Interacting with a contact is all through context menus, which can also get a bit confusing.

    While you can customize the conversation windows, the options are limited, and they are never as clean and functional as one might like. The skins are very limited and don't exactly seem designed with readability in mind. This is a real problem for people who use their instant messengers as work tools.

    While I rate the look and feel to be only a 2, remember that Digsby is in beta, so new skins and a more streamlined interface is surely in the works.

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    Features

    Rating Average

    Digsby really shines here, as just about every feature related to each service is available. You can update your status on Facebook and send tweets, you can send alerts, track your friends on each network, and even follow individual timelines. All of this is available through menus that pop up when you mouse-over a given account in your buddy-list. While all of the options and features are a bit cluttered in the current skins, having them there takes all of those activities out of your browser and puts them in your tray, which frees up a lot of time and browser space.

    For all of you gamers and full-screen media people out there, Digsby allows you to make sure that message notifications will never interfere with your entertainment. An option lets you set the notifications to not pop up when any full-screen application is running, though sound notifications will still come through so you know you have a message. Since this was always a problem with Trillian and ICQ, I was very happy to see someone finally offer a solution.

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    Final Words

    While the look and feel of Digsby leaves a lot to be desired, the functionality, stability, and versatility are sure winners. If you are still using Trillian or a network-exclusive instant messenger, then you should definitely check it out. However, if you are running on a low-memory system or simply don't trust applications which seem to bloat up under use, you might want to wait for a later release.