A Gmail/Google/GTalk chat alternative
March 15, 2013 9:10 PM   Subscribe

It's an old cry now - to get out of Google's claws. Mail, calendar and everything. However, I always find one thing missing. Chat is never talked about. As a matter of fact this one is the difficult most. You need to have added all those chat contacts and they in turn have had to added you(approved) you back, unlike email where you just need to fine an email and the receiver gets it unless you were specifically blocked. So, let's discuss how to release our chatting app/service free from the claws of Google/Facebook/Skype &c and still be able to:

1. Be able to chat with Gmail contacts, Facebook(if possible) contacts and all others who(at least) are using the same protocols (AIM does it so I guess it can be done).

2. Have my transcripts saved the way it's done in GTalk - name, email, time stamp(each message sent in a chat)

3. (optional) Have video and audio call

4. This can be a service (paid/free) or self hosted

5. Supported by chat client(s)

6. Old stuff like chat transcripts and contacts can move with the account in case host etc are changed other than domain (I am not sure about this point and how it works, maybe someone with technical know how of XMPP or so will say it better)

7. Add if something is left out.
posted by amar to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Trillian was always good back in the day. It's adware, but not spyware (unless it's gone really downhill since I last used it).
posted by BungaDunga at 10:16 PM on March 15, 2013

In order to talk with people on GChat you need to be using an XMPP / Jabber server that supports peering with Google's servers. There are a number of servers that do this, and in fact you can even set one up yourself (not recommended unless you like pain). I'd probably just use jabber.org.

You can use any XMPP/jabber client on your machines(s): Pidgin, Trillian, whatever. I think that they even have a web client in case you need to use it from a machine you can't install software on.

Your contacts will have to re-approve you, since you are changing names and servers. Instead of yourname@gmail.com, you will now be yournewname@jabber.org, so they'll have to add you to their contact lists and stuff. This is unavoidable.

The only thing that it won't do, unfortunately, is server-side logging like Gchat does. So if you want logs, you'll have to enable that in your client program, and the logs will then be stuck on your local machines unless you set up some sort of automated process to upload them to a central place (which could be as easy as setting the log location to be inside Dropbox or something). But Google stands pretty much alone in doing full server-side logging and then providing you an easy searchable archive of all your chats. If you want feature parity there, you're probably going to have to cobble something together out of a bunch of parts, and I don't think it'll be really smooth.

But if you can live without that, a jabber.org account will probably work fine.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:27 PM on March 15, 2013

Btw, if are going to chat with Google/FB/Skype users and/or send email to them, it's not like your data will not end up in those very same claws anyway.
posted by themel at 10:30 PM on March 15, 2013

Are you just looking to chat with your Google/Facebook/Skype friends from a different-but-unified interface, such as a third-party client like Trillian or Pidgin or Adium? Or are you looking to not be logged into Google/Facebook/Skype yourself, while still being able to chat with your friends who are on Google/Facebook/Skype? The former is pretty easy, if not always stable (I find Facebook Chat via third-party clients to be particularly flaky). The latter is definitely not stable, if even possible on a case-by-case basis.

Example: as of yesterday, Google appears to have just made it impossible for non-GChat users to add GChat users to their contact lists. There may be some whitelisted exceptions down the road (I suspect AIM may be one of them, given their high profile and likelihood of frequent interoperability requests), but this is entirely up to Google to decide.

If you're just looking for a good client, chat logging/autosaving of transcripts the way you describe it is pretty standard. The only video chat clients I know of are FaceTime, Skype, and Google Video chat; IIRC Trillian supports Skype and Google Video chat.

If you really *really* want off of Google/Facebook for text chatting, you're probably best off just getting your contacts' mobile phone numbers and texting them, though obviously you lose the chatlogging ability. Or there's always IRC, or hosting your own chatroom on your website, but those tend to work better for group chats than individual unscheduled chats unless your group tends to hang on IRC anyway.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 11:22 PM on March 15, 2013

Response by poster: @Kadin2048 Thanks. That was what was coming to my mind but as you mentioned, the pain part has kept me from doing it on my webfaction server. If only I could sth that just installs and then starts kicking :-)

@themel: You are right. But still it will be less evil as sometimes those email would be to Yahoo or MS or to blah blah. But this is kind of scary that even though you want to be free from their claws, you are actually not.

@Pandora Kouti: looking to not be logged into Google/Facebook/Skype yourself, while still being able to chat with your friends who are on Google/Facebook/Skype
posted by amar at 3:50 AM on March 16, 2013

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