Best Instant Messaging and Video Chat Apps

Everyone has their favorite chat application.   For many people, the choice is to simply rely on the instant messaging or video chat feature that comes along with their Gmail, Yahoo!, or MSN email account.  Others find a chat app that works well on their smart-phone so that they can stay in contact on the go.  Certain third party instant messaging applications can provide a higher level of control, with more personalization options and the ability to chat on a variety of different instant messenger programs.  The best instant messaging software can work on any platform and can allow you to keep all your contact and conversations upn to date no matter what device you log in from.

Here are the best chat applications of people who spend a lot of time instant messaging or video chatting.

Video chatting

A number of major internet players have video chat applications that can make it easy to talk with your contacts and friends for free over the internet.  Google Video Chat, which is accessible via Gmail, is an obvious option for people who use the popular email client.  A free plug-in makes it possible to add video chat to your Gmail toolbox.  Since it is web-based, Google Video Chat can work with a number of different operating systems.  The grandmother of video chatting is Skype.  This application allows users to make phone calls over the internet, and can easily be used to turn PC to PC calls into video chats.  Because it has been around for so long, Skype has been able to develop a smooth video stream (provided both users have high enough internet speeds). Its ability to work on any platform makes it the default video chat tool of choice for many people who use the internet, instead of the phone, to communicate.  iChat is a popular video chat tool for Mac users.  Unfortunately, it is not quite as useful as the other two in this section because it does not work with non-Apple computers.  This can be a really limiting factor, and despite the cool features (four person video chat, for example), most iChat users will probably find themselves relying on one of the other two applications mentioned above at some point.

Text Instant Messaging

Yahoo! Messenger is the king of this marketplace, as it has been for a long time.  However, with so many other options out there, it can be worthwhile to get a third party application that makes it possible to chat on a number of different instant messaging services at the same time.  Most of these third party programs are specific to a certain type of OS. Adium is the muscular Mac-based application that is much, much more useful than Apple’s standard iChat app.  It works across the different instant messaging networks and communities and can be customized with a number of free plug-ins.  Pidgin is a similar application for instant messaging on Windows.  This open source app also works on Linux computers.  Like Adium, Pidgin has a number of plug-ins that make a high level of customization possible.

Smart-phone based IM apps

IM+ was one of the first chat applications for the iPhone, and it remains the app of choice for serious instant messengers.  This app now works on Apple, Android, and Blackberry phones.  It connects users with Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ, Gtalk, Skype, Facebook chat and many more.  It is an invaluable tool for active IMers and makes it possible for them to stay connected all the time, not just when they are sitting at their computer.  One of IM+’s main competitors is Beehive IM.  It also works with most major IM programs and allows users to organize their contacts and conversations on their phone.

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