Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Comparison of Official Chat Clients.

Most of us use Multi Protocol clients these days, but its good to know how each protocol service’s official client is. So… that’s what we are doing today. We will be comparing the features of AIM, ICQ, Yahoo!, Windows Live, Google Talk client, and Google Talk Gmail version. The following apply to the client’s Microsoft Windows version. Features may or may not vary for other platforms. We are NOT promoting any of this software in any way in this post.

Notes on Classification/License: Adware is not necessarily dangerous. A program is listed as Adware if they: Attempt to install software (like toolbars) that is not required for program’s functions, installs search engines, changes your default search engine, and/or displays advertisements. Homepage change may also be included.

We are only displaying the unique features and special features of the client under Pros to save space because many clients have the exact same features. Notice that most of them are adware.

I am not affiliated with the developers of these clients.

AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) v6.9: (not recommended)
Requires AOL or ICQ Screenname
Classification: Adware and Spyware


  • Social Networking Status Updates
  • Real Time IM. See what your buddy is typing.
  • AIM Plugins to extend your experience
  • Customize buddy list with colors
  • Tabbed IMs. Regroup and detach.
  • Search for buddies by typing their email address.
  • AIM Expressions so you can have different IM backgrounds. This is actually a protocol feature but only the client supports it
  • Emoticon fireworks
  • Connect with ICQ (same protocol)


  • No Log Viewer. Must view in external HTML viewer
  • Heavy advertising with mouseover popup ads
  • AIM Zone Pop Up upon start up by default. Covered with flashy ads.
  • Force installs Viewpoint Media Player with NO option to opt out. See below for details.

Why This Program is Classified as Adware/Spyware:

  • Attempts to install AIM Toolbar with AIM Search, QQGames, and AIMTunes by default, all of which is not required for AIM to function. Even if you choose to not install these, the .exe is already downloaded with the main setup and placed into your installation directories.
  • Attempts to change your homepage to
  • Attempts to make AIM Search default.
  • Displays banner and text advertisements within the program (very heavy with some mouseover popup like ads). Also known to randomly download huge trailers for ads.
  • Force installs potentially unwanted software with no option to opt out. See below for details.

WARNING! AIM and other AOL Software installs a program called Viewpoint Media Player without user consent. Viewpoint Media Player is Adware and potentially Spyware. They claim it is required to view so-called media like SuperBuddy Icons. They give no option to opt out. If you uninstall it, it will secretly reinstall itself if you have administrative rights the next time you launch AIM or the AOL product. Even the AOL browser does this. Thats not all. Viewpoint has a unique user ID and will eventually track how users interact with the media. Thats still not all.

ICQ v6.5:
Requires AOL or ICQ Screenname
Classification: Adware


  • ICQ Plugins (Xtras).
  • Connect with AIM (same protocol)
  • Tabbed IMs
  • Chat Log Viewer
  • Skins to customize experience
  • Quick reply. Reply from the new IM notification.


  • ICQ Zones (like AIM Zones) pop ups on startup by default. Covered with flashy ads.
  • Heavy advertising both on buddy list and IM window

Why This Program is Classified as Adware:

  • Attempts to install ICQ Toolbar with ICQ Search.
  • Attempts to make the homepage
  • Attempts to make ICQ Search default.
  • Displays banner and text advertisements within the program

Yahoo! Messenger v9.0:
Requires Yahoo! Account
Classification: Adware


  • IMVironments: Interactive IM backgrounds
  • Yahoo! Plugins to extend your experience
  • Skins to customize your experience
  • Custom Ringtones
  • Sound effects and soundtracks during Voice and Video Chat
  • Audibles: Send animated talking characters to your buddies
  • Yahoo! Games built in without any additional software
  • Buzz Feature
  • Stealth: Be invisible to only certain buddies
  • Connect with Windows Live Messenger (MSN), Microsoft Office Communications Server, Lotus Sametime, and Reuters Messaging users
  • Chat Log Viewer


  • Tabbed IMs not available in Windows version
  • Some banner and text ads within program.

Why This Program is Classified as Adware:

  • The default “Typical Install” tab hides these options. By default, Yahoo! Toolbar will be installed.
  • Attempts to make Yahoo! Search default by default.
  • Attempts to change homepage to by default.
  • Displays banner and text ads within program

Windows Live Messenger 2009 (v14):
Requires Windows Live ID
Classification: Adware


  • Colorful and attractive themes (scenes) and colors
  • Smooth integration with Windows
  • Lots of backgrounds for individual IM windows
  • Buzz Feature
  • Connect with Yahoo! buddies
  • Play games with your buddy right from the window without additional software.
  • Drag and drop pictures to your buddies
  • See Whats New in your buddies networks
  • Groups: Group Chat with an entry in your buddy list
  • Built in Log Viewer


  • Some banner and text ads within program.
  • Today pops up by default at startup

Why This Program is Classified as Adware:

  • Banner advertisements.
  • Text advertisements.
  • By default MSN home page and Live search default and keep default set after Windows Live Installer runs.

Google Talk v1.0: Requires Google Account (Gmail required for logging)
Classification: Freeware


  • Simplicity.
  • Skinnable IM windows.
  • Scrolling IM windows. Works like tabs.
  • Voice chat
  • No advertisements. 100% Ad Free.


  • Highly feature lacking. Too many to list.
  • Last Official Update: January 2007 (v1.0.104)

We are adding the Gmail Google Talk version because that is the main version developed by Google Inc. and is one of the most popular ways people access Google Talk (Jabber/XMPP).

Google Talk Gmail Version Requires Google Account with Gmail capability
Classification: Website


  • Simplicity.
  • Watch YouTube right from the IM “window”
  • Video and Voice Chat with plugin
  • Group Chat
  • Many Emoticons in 4 styles
  • Connect with AIM Buddies using your AIM Screenname
  • No ads on any chat interface.


  • No IM colors.
  • No advanced client features

Comparison Chart Key:

  1. 1. Group Chat
  2. 2. Themes and Skins
  3. 3. Video Chat
  4. 4. Voice Chat
  5. 5. Multi-Protocol Support
  6. 6. Add-ons and Plugins
  7. 7. Banner Graphical Ads
  8. 8. Text Ads
  9. 9. Play games with buddy
  10. 10. Buzz
  11. 11. Chat Logs
  12. 12. Built in Chat Log Viewer
  13. 13. Hides Extra Software*
  14. 14. Number of Additional Offers**
  15. 15. Installation Size***
  16. 16. My rating of the product. Ratings are relative to this category of products and are not eligible to compare to ratings on official multi protocol clients. Rating scale: 0.5 (Very Poor) to 5.0 (Superior). Note: Gmail Gtalk is Webware, not client therefore it has been rated in relation to typical web browser versions.

AIM ICQ Yahoo! WLM Gtalk Client Gtalk Gmail

Adware Adware Adware Adware Freeware Website
1 Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
2 Colors only No Yes Yes No Yes
3 Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes ****
4 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes ****
5 No
6 Yes Yes Yes No No No
7 Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
8 Yes Yes Yes Yes No None on chat interface
9 Requires QQGames No Yes Yes No No
10 No No Yes Yes No No
11 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes (w/ Gmail account) Yes
12 No Yes Yes Yes No Yes
13 Yes Yes Yes No No N/A
14 6 (1 are forced) 3 3 2 1 N/A
15 25 MB 51 MB 27 MB 43 MB 4 MB N/A
16 1.3 2.9 4.0 4.5 3.5 4.7
*Hiding extra software means that the program’s installation hides extra software like toolbars under “Recommended”
**Extra offers refers to toolbars, search engines, and homepage changes that are offered. AIM’s force install of third party software is included here.
***As installed on Windows XP Professional SP3
****Requires Video and Voice Plugin
*****Requires AOL/AIM Screenname.
My Personal Opinion:
If you are new to IM and only want one service with an official client, try Windows Live Messenger or Google Talk Gmail Version. Otherwise, consider using full multi protocol clients.
I personally do not recommend the official AIM Client.

Which client would you choose?
Happy chatting!

Post Updated 6/5: I updated this post today because I realized that WildTangent was previously installed with AIM 5.5. It is no longer installed in AIM 6 in favor of QQGames for the gaming service.