Chances are that if you’re reading this, you should be doing something else. Something productive. That’s okay, because I should be too.
I’ve often noted that some people don’t want to download an Instant Messaging program on their computer. Either it’s too slow, or they don’t want viruses, or both. Many people resort to using AIM Express: one of the worst browser-based AIM Clients. First of all, it doesn’t work well. Secondly, it only supports AIM, while there are other sites out there that support signing on to multiple services at once.
The first such service I’ve found is Meebo. Meebo runs in one window in a format very similar to the desktop version of AIM. The buddy list is on the right-hand-side and you double click and right click to open IM windows and contextual menus, respectively. Meebo allows you to create a free account so you can save all of your accounts and sign on to all of them with one username and password combination. Meebo also provides a flash-based chat widget to its members: people visiting your site can chat with you if you’re signed on to Meebo.
One downside to Meebo is that it’s very intensive; I recommend you have a decently-fast computer before using this. It may not be the best option for public computers.
(Meebo; click for full-size 1280×800)
Another great service I’ve just recently discovered (thanks to commenter Amanda) is KoolIM. KoolIM works in much the same way as Meebo does. You can sign on to multiple chat services and create an account to remember all of your settings. The main difference here is in appearance: KoolIM opens the Buddy List and chat windows in new windows; if you have popup blockers, this could be a problem. However, it seems to be less intensive on your computer than Meebo.
(Koolim; Click for full-size, 1280×800)
One caveat: neither services have tabbed chat capability, and I’m not sure as to the status of transferring files on either service. But, for basic chat, both are great services.
Both are great options and I recommend trying both before settling on one service. Or, you could sign up for both sites and use them at times you deem appropriate. Enjoy these pro-slacker services. You can use them on any internet-enabled computer.