Pidgin is an extremely popular open source instant messenger, but have you ever thought to yourself what it would be like if Mozilla created something similar? It would be possible to make the instant messenger do almost anything you want with the use of extensions … you could even add more networks! Well, there hasn’t been any signs that Mozilla is working on such an application, but Florian Qu├Ęze and Quentin Castier took it upon themselves to turn the dream into a reality.




Let me introduce you to Instantbird, an XUL application that uses the libpurple library to connect to other networks. That’s the framework used by Mozilla, and the same library that both Pidgin and Meebo run off of.

–Current State–

The Instantbird 0.1 download is about 13MB in size, and there is no installation required to test it out. With that being said you may want to do a quick read through of this article before you spend the time setting it up.

Right now Instantbird is about as simple as it gets, but it does let you connect to several different networks: AIM, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, ICQ, MSN, QQ, XMPP, Yahoo!, and more. There is a tabbed interface for your chats and a decent account manager, but there are absolutely no options for you to configure. This screenshot that I took just about demonstrates the entire extent program:

Instantbird 

–What’s to Come–

The exciting part, however, is still yet to come. Here’s a brief look at the plans for future versions of Instantbird:

  • Instantbird 0.2 – status handling (away, busy, etc…), contact management, extensibility, notifier, and more.
  • Instantbird 0.3 – richtext for outgoing messages, buddy icons, file transfers, preferences, sounds, and more.
  • Instantbird 1.0 – should be close to what Pidgin offers
  • Instantbird 1.0+ – video and voice support

–Oh the Possibilities–

I’m really excited about the future of this project because of how it plans to use extensions. In fact the theme and extension manager has already been implemented into Instantbird:

Instantbird Addons

The add-ons site hasn’t launched yet, but when it does we might see some truly awesome features roll out. Think about being able to send files to friends no matter what network they are on! The thought of having addons in an instant messenger is extremely appealing to me, and if developed well enough could cause its popularity to rise very fast. Pidgin’s plugin system just doesn’t cut it in my mind.

I wish the best to the developers, and I can’t wait to see what future versions have to offer!

Instantbird Homepage [via David Ascher]