After several months of delay, the first beta of the popular open-source IM client Gaim is now available.
This new beta, Gaim 2.0beta1, now includes support for several IM (instant messaging) protocols, such as the SIP/SIMPLE protocols, Apple Inc.s Bonjour, the older Zephyr protocol, Novell Inc.s GroupWise Novell protocol and several more obscure protocols such as the Polish Gadu-Gadu.
Of course, Gaim also continues to support the popular AIM, Yahoo Messenger, Jabber and MSN protocols.
Gaim also supports SILC (Secure Internet Live Conferencing), a security protocol. SILC works not only for IM, but for IRC (Internet Relay Chat)-style conferencing and VOIP (voice over IP) and video conferencing as well.
This version of Gaim, however, does not support either VOIP or video. It was originally in the cards, but neither feature is in this version. Under SILC, however, it does not support white boards and image transfers.
At first, VOIP and video were part of a separate project—gaim-vv—but this functionality was merged back into the main project in October.
The new GAIM, however, does support UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) and NAT (Network Address Translation).
UPnP-enabled NAT traversal works with properly enabled network gateways, such as a cable modem, to ensure that Gaim will be able to communicate with IM servers without requiring the user or network administrator to manually setting a NAT firewall to work with each individual IM protocols port requirements.
The program also included major changes to the interface and lessened the amount of control a user had over the programs defaults.
These changes, however, have already received a great deal of criticism, and many of them—such as per-account status boxes and removing the option to show idle times in the buddy list—will be changed before the next beta release.
In general, the new beta is being well-received.
Not all, however, are convinced that the beauty will stay bright for Gaim and other universal IM clients such as Kopete and Trillian.
"I dont see Microsoft, AOL or Yahoo making it easy for any alternative client to connect with a full feature set," said Richi Jennings, a lead analyst at Ferris Research.
"Theyre all investing significant amounts in providing voice and video services—quite simply, they need to recoup that investment by showing ads. Alternatives might be tolerated if it remains a tiny niche client, but if it begins to grow to, say, more than 5 percent of any networks clients, steps will be taken to cut it off and ensure it remains cut off," said Jennings.
Still, for now, Gaim is working. The beta version is currently available for Linux and Windows.