Instant Messaging is being called the next ‘killer app’ of the Internet. Now being embraced by businesses, IM is changing the way we communicate with our colleagues, friends and families. One of the biggest challenges facing the success of IM is the large number of incompatible protocols. AIM can’t talk with Yahoo. Yahoo can’t talk with MSN…etc. September’s Project of the Month is gaim, a unique Instant Message client that supports ten differing protocols under the same user interface. Now it IS possible to talk to the boss using ICQ, your customers using Jabber, your developers using IRC and your mother using AIM all in a single application. gaim was founded in 1998 and is currently lead by Rob Flynn and Sean Egan. gaim is routinely the number one project on SourceForge.net, based on activity, and we welcome them as our first Project of the Month.
Project Name: gaim
Founded / Started: November 1998
Description of project
It is an IM client. It is unique in that it supports 10 IM protocols within the same UI through modular protocols so that it remains lightweight.
UNIX-like OSes (including OS X), Win32 (when we release 0.60), written in C. Requires GTK. Licensed under the GPL
How did you get started?
The product was originally started by Mark A. Spencer in November of 1998. Rob joined the project in December of 98 because of his desire for a good instant messaging program for Linux. Sean began contributing patches frequently and was made an official part of the team in January of 2002.
Why is gaim called gaim?
Because G-AIM-ICQ-MSN-Yahoo!-Jabber-IRC-Napster-GaduGadu-Zephyr is too long
What is the intended audience?
Desktop users who wish to maintain communication with others. Or according to Nat Friedman, it’s for "Geeks who want to talk to their girlfriends."
How many people do you believe are using your software?
I hate this question. Ver. 0.59 has ~50,000 downloads currently. It has been out for about a week. Some people (debian, gentoo, ximian users, etc) won’t ever download it from SourceForge.net. and some people download it from mirrors. Some people use older copies and will never upgrade. So I guess a good estimate would be over 100,000 users.
What gave you an indication that your project was becoming successful?
Rob: I finally realized that the project was becoming successful when I opened a magazine in a local bookstore and saw a screen shot of gaim, as well as a small write up about it. Another time was when I was on vacation and over heard someone talking about Gaim and how they had been chatting with the developers. It was a very weird feeling.
Sean: Of course it was already very successful when I started, but first day of the semester last Spring, my professor puts the course webpage on the projector and under "Required software" were three programs: the jdk (the class used Java), Xemacs, and gaim. She had no clue she had a Gaim developer in the class–she just really liked the software and recommended it to the class (even though it was mostly Windows users)
What has been your biggest surprise?
Rob: My biggest surprise was probably the amount of use that gaim began receiving. When the protocol was changed, preventing Gaim from being able to connect to the AIM service, my mail box was literally flooded with reports of the problem. I was definitely surprised.
Sean: About April, Yahoo! Messenger started blocking older clients, and 3rd party clients who used the older authentication scheme. We figured out the authentication scheme in a week, and for a while we were the only working 3rd party client. The surprise was seeing our code adapted by other projects–Jabber, everybuddy, trillian, (whom we granted the right to use our code, despite their being closed source) Fire.app– Someone not affiliated with gaim at all even created a new sf.net project (libyahoo2.sf.net) for our Yahoo protocol. It’s amazing to see open source at its best like this.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Sean: Trying to convince people I knew how to code 😉
Rob: Trying to convince people that Sean knew how to code…
Why do you think your project has been so well received?
Rob: Linux users have needed a nice, clean all-in-one instant messaging solution. We’re trying to provide that.
Where do you see your project going?
We expect to see Instant Messaging become less of an "application." We’re working on integrating it with the entire desktop experience. When you use gaim, your email client will do Instant Messaging, your web browser will do Instant Messaging. Everything will become an Instant Messaging client.
Multiple simultaneous accounts, multiple protocols, win32 support, gtk2, core-ui split