Re: Folk still using IM clients?
I have Pidgin and it's possible to put Facebook IM friends on there too (with a little fiddling). But, basically, things like texting have killed off IM. If you're in some niche group with international members, they probably have their own messaging facility on forums, or some game, or whatever. Otherwise, it's personal contacts who'll be on your Facebook or have you Skype, etc.
Skype is killing off plain text IM, certainly, by doing what NONE of the IM networks managed to do - simple video/audio chat, no matter the OS or network in between. Hell, they even do IM too so you lose nothing by moving over.
And when MSN Messenger was rebranded Windows Live, I noticed a huge drop-off in people on there back then. And now Google Talk has hit hard too, because people are often logged into their GMail or similar anyway or collecting it from their Android phones. I honestly only keep AOL, ICQ, MSN, YIM, et al accounts on my Pidgin because it keeps things like my (unused) Hotmail/Yahoo accounts live.
Basically, IM has been attacked from all angles because it failed to evolve. IRC was massive at one time and though it's still around, it failed to evolve and is still stuck in the 80's (it's funny to still see no-IRC clauses in dedicated server policies). Similarly, the only decent reason to use Jabber was because it integrated lots of disparate servers and IM networks together but by the time it came it was too late (something that could have been solved with open standards arriving and being supported more quickly). And it doesn't generate money for anyone, so nobody ever invested in it. It was always a side-project to some marvellous scheme or software (e.g. Skype IM, AOL IM, etc.).
Skype was a breath of fresh air and solved the problem that (still) not a lot of people have solved in terms of audio/video. I've still never got a video-IM to go through a NAT yet, unless it was Skype or I set up outside servers to bounce off (and the standards change all the time, and the open-source clients can't keep up - hell, there still isn't decent video-IM integration for ANY of the huge networks in open-source IM clients). Skype even makes money, which is a shocker. I'm not sure I'd ever pay for it, even as good as it is.
IM is dying quickly. People use their phones more than their computers now and a lot of the time it's not even possible to use those IM networks from a phone (or you need N apps to connect to N different protocols!). And if you're holding a phone and want to talk to a friend? Use those thousands of free texts to just text them anyway.
This is actually one of the more sensible MS moves that I've seen. I was half-expecting it to go the other way and try to crowbar Skype into MSN. My biggest use of plain-text IM nowadays is to talk to the Google Translate bots over XMPP. It's so much easier to copy/paste the text than it is to load up the website each time. That's about it.
IM is dead. Skype will be too if they change the way it works (and they know it, and will be safe from competitors right up until they try that). And even Skype are having problems with their service over mobile data because of the competition (e.g. telecoms companies). Unfortunately, the replacements all rely on the telecoms services too. The FSF have a Skype replacement as one of their top priorities. Still haven't seen ANYTHING from that yet.
For years, I wanted Pidgin's functionality to be merged into Opera (which already does mail, news and IRC). But now all I want is video, audio and IM in one program (Opera would be good, but I can suffer a second program). Open standards would help. NAT-breaking is a MUST (even in this nearly-but-not-quite-yet post-IPv6 era). Multi-platform is essential (Android phone + Windows PC). Skype is the only thing even close to doing that, and is making a profit.
IM networks had 20+ years to get video or even audio going reliably, or publish their protocols so networks could integrate, and they could have cashed in on it too. They didn't bother, and in some cases still haven't, so I have little sympathy for them. My parents know how to "Skype" their granddaughter. That's after decades of having two IT-gurus available to them for free (called "sons") but nothing else got any use. And "skype" now means "videophone" like we intended in the 60's. Hell, you can even buy a "phone" to use for it.
IM? Killed off by telecoms and Skype.