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 Quèze 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]

There Are 19 Comments

  1. Wow pretty cool, going to give this a shot. Interesting how people are starting to put pieces of software together and making new ones…competition in some sense.

  2. I’ll have to keep an eye on this project. For now however I’m sticking with Pidgin.

  3. Miranda’s user-friendly clone :P
    not interesting for me

  4. Mohan wrote:
    Wow pretty cool, going to give this a shot. Interesting how people are starting to put pieces of software together and making new ones…competition in some sense.

    I’m just amazed at how flexible Mozilla’s framework is. Now they have people making media players with it, email clients, and now an instant messenger. Is there anything that it can’t do?

    Pieter wrote:
    I’ll have to keep an eye on this project. For now however I’m sticking with Pidgin.

    I definitely wouldn’t throw in the towel on Pidgin yet. This looks like it has a good chance of becoming a great program, but they still have a few months (maybe a year) worth of development left before that happens.

    Maleficus wrote:
    Miranda’s user-friendly clone :P
    not interesting for me

    I haven’t tried out Miranda in quite some time, but if I’m correct their extensibility is also very limited much like Pidgin’s.

  5. The big question will be memory usage… XUL is tremendously bloated compared to native GUI apps.

    Still, could be interesting to easily make themes and plugins… it’s so difficult to compile most open source windows apps that are written in C++.

  6. The How-To Geek wrote:
    The big question will be memory usage… XUL is tremendously bloated compared to native GUI apps.

    That’s a good point, and as it stands right now it consumes around 22MB of memory. I would say 22MB is a bit high for an instant messenger, but they probably still have to cut back on some things that are unnecessary. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for right now. ;)

  7. Maleficus wrote:
    Miranda’s user-friendly clone :P
    not interesting for me

    Ryan wrote:
    I haven’t tried out Miranda in quite some time, but if I’m correct their extensibility is also very limited much like Pidgin’s.

    I was going to argue with Maleficus, but I’ve been giving Miranda another shot, and so should you, Ryan. Goodbye, Pidgin, hello, Miranda!!! The Weather protocol add-on alone is worth it. It’s more customizable (check out some of the screenshots of the themes add-ons here: [addons.miranda-im.org]) and much, much faster and lighter (especially if you want a portable version – no GTK+ required) at just 4 MB installed. It’s easier to install that portable version, too, since you can point the installer at any folder and uncheck a box to prevent it from using %AppData%.

    Too bad about Linux support, though. I’ll stick with Pidgin there – unless Miranda runs perfectly under Wine.

  8. I am also a big fan of Miranda, very customizable and ran like a charm on my super old laptop. The big drawback is that it requires lot of tinkering to get it to work as I want it to (true, I am picky, and after configuring it as I like, it does precisely what I want to). The Instantbird project does sound quite interesting, with endless possibilities from easy to install extensions.

  9. I remember the last time I tried Miranda it required me to jump through some hoops to get Google Talk setup. I think I had to download an SSL program and everything.

  10. Very nice, I will have to keep an eye on this one.

  11. Just threw together an installer package (.DEB format) for all you Ubuntu users out there (so probably just me, but I had too much time on my hands :D ). This is the first Ubuntu installer I ever built, so keep in mind that stuff *could* go wrong. It probably won’t go as far as damaging your system though; in the worst case you’ll end up with a broken uninstaller or something. I don’t know. I mean, I tested it several times on Ubuntu 7.10 and it didn’t break anything… :)

    Without further ado, here’s a download link:
    [divshare.com]

    Just download the file to your desktop, double-click it and then hit the ‘Install package’ button. Instantbird should appear in your GNOME/KDE start menu after installation. If it does not, you can always launch it by opening a terminal and executing the ‘instantbird’ command.

    If you experience any issues with this package, please let me know.

  12. Nice job, Pieter! Think I’ll be sticking with Pidgin for right now though.

  13. Looks interesting. Have Mozilla got a nightly/release site for it like their other applications?

  14. Although Instantbird is based on something Mozilla developed, it’s is not a Mozilla project as far as I know.

  15. Although Instantbird is based on something Mozilla developed, it’s is not a Mozilla project as far as I know.

    Ah, ok thanks.

  16. Instantbird has just been released in version 0.2

    Despite the low version number it has quite some improvements, for details see here:
    [instantbird.com]

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