Pidgin is a free Internet chat client (instant messenger, or IM for short) in which the user can connect to a variety of popular networks, all at once, and all using the same software. Even multiple accounts on the same service can be signed into at one time, meaning, for instance, that the user could be signed into both a business and a personal Yahoo account simultaneously. Other reasons why many like the program include features such as tabbed-chats (to hold several separate online conversations inside the same window), its low RAM usage, and its lack of advertisements.
As of the time of writing, Pidgin supports 16 different chat networks. They are mentioned alphabetically below:
AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk (and Gmail Chat), Groupwise, ICQ, IRC, MSN (Windows Live Messenger), MySpaceIM, QQ, SILC, SIMPLE, Sametime, XMPP, Yahoo, Zephyr
A couple of other common networks not supported at the time are Facebook and Skype. Archived help discussions on the Pidgin website suggested that Facebook chat connections may be supported in the future, however, the development team was waiting until Facebook would switch to its own system. As for Skype, it appears that due to proprietary reasons, it will not be officially supported on the Pidgin client.
Pidgin downloads are available for different operating systems. The following are options, as of the time of this writing:
Mac OS X
CentOS / RHEL
With Ubuntu, and perhaps others, Pidgin is pre-installed upon set-up of the OS. An open source program, the source code is also available for download at the Pidgin website.
Presently, voice and video are not fully supported, however, they just recently (since version 2.6.1) were added to Pidgin for use on XMPP connections under the Ubuntu version of the program. Plugins are available to modify certain aspects of how the program runs. Some features and functions particular to specific chat networks may not be available: for instance, ICQ's built-in random chat or user search. Over the years, Pidgin has added a number of new features, while also expanding availability to new networks, and improving some areas of the software.
Pidgin is an interesting multi-client chat program to use for people who want to log into a few chat networks at once, as it can be done conveniently at the same place. For this reason, it is also useful for those on older computers who cannot or do not want to run official software that for some networks requires more memory. Additionally, Pidgin is ad-free, so those who don't want to see advertising on their contact lists or the chat boxes with their buddies may feel more comfortable. Previously, Pidgin was known as Gaim, however, the name was changed in 2007 after legal issues due to its similarity to AOL's trademarked AIM.