Single-Protocol IM Clients

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Comparing the Most Popular IM Clients

Two women using their devices to message
Robert Nickelsberg / Contributor / Getty Images

While most single-protocol IM clients allow users to perform the basic task of sending IMs, each one is a little bit different from the next. With features like video chat, text messaging and voice calls, finding the right IM can be difficult.

This guide is designed to help introduce and familiarize new users with popular IM clients and software. Readers can choose a single-protocol IM, learn what is new with their favorite IM client or compare programs side-by-side.

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AIM

AIM was once the most widely used IM program in America with an estimated 53 million users at its peak, according to Nielsen/Netratings. Though it has declined since that time and AOL has shifted focus away from it in large part, it is a long-standing leader in the IM market, making the shift to mobile platforms with the AIM app. 

AIM users can:

New users can receive a screen name and download AIM for free.

AIM is available for both Windows and Mac desktops and laptops, as well as iOS and Android mobile devices.

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Yahoo! Messenger

Yahoo! Messenger is another one of the first and largest instant messengers. It has also gone through changes like AIM, with a shift to a new backend platform and a simpler, less feature-rich client.

In addition to sending IMs, Yahoo! Messenger users can also:

  • Communicate through video and voice chat
  • Share photos, images and videos
  • Make voice phone calls
  • Receive messages while offline
  • Access their Yahoo! Messenger account on other platforms, such as smartphones

Users can join and download Yahoo! Messenger for free.

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Google Hangouts

Google launched Hangouts for smartphones, Android and iOS platforms, is available in a web-based app, and can be used through the Gmail service. Hangouts replaced Google Talk.

Google Hangouts is a great way to collaborate or just hang out with friends, especially when people aren't around their computers. It allows you to make voice and video calls, including video conferencing, and send text messages. Google Hangouts synchronizes across all your devices, as well. 

Start using Google Hangouts.

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WhatsApp

Facebook's WhatsApp has quickly risen to become one of the most popular instant messaging apps available today, among many of the other well-known options out there like Kik and Snapchat. And it's showing no signs of slowing down.

WhatsApp Web

A desktop web version for WhatsApp is available, but it functions a bit differently than other web-based IM services you may be familiar with. WhatsApp Web uses your smartphone to communicate through the WhatsApp service.

To use WhatsApp on your computer via the web, you must first have it installed on your smartphone. After doing so and setting up your WhatsApp account, you visit the WhatsApp web app site and scan the QR code using WhatsApp on your smartphone to make the connection. 

This is not as complicated as it may sound. For the steps for setting up WhatsApp on your desktop or laptop, check out the WhatsApp Web FAQ.