iChat + gTalk = Universal IM Client

There have been tutorials about using the Jabber features in iChat to connect to many IM systems (AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, etc). I have tried to use this set up from time to time but always reverted to just directly connecting to AIM/ICQ because the gateways that I could find were just too flaky (they kept logging me off or would fail to report that I was online to other IM users).

Recently, a few of my friends have converted to using gTalk full time. I love its features, but too few of my friends use it. I figured that I should use Google’s instructions on how to connect to gTalk using iChat. It worked fine.

You see Google doesn’t offer gateways to connect to other IM systems from gTalk. But, after a while, I still longed to see if I could get all of my contacts on in 1 window without switching from iChat to Adium or Fire. So, I followed google’s instructions on connecting to gTalk from PSI. Once I connected via PSI, I chose [Service Discovery] from the [General] menu.


On a whim, I decided to see what would happen if I chose to browse services offered by other Jabber servers instead of browsing the google server. Sure enough, it worked! I was able to register for gateways for all of the IM systems that I use.

At this point, the gateways, had me approve each of my buddies from copies of my buddy lists kept on their servers. This part took a while.

Then, I added my own screen names on each of these IM systems as a contact. I put my AIM/ICQ, MSN, and Yahoo IDs into a group called gateways. Then I enabled groups in iChat and changed the name of the default group to Online. Then, I enabled use Offline Group in iChat.


By doing this, iChat now reports which gateways are online by sensing the presence of my own screen names. If a gateway appears offline, I can often fix it by simply IMing myself a simple hello. This triggers a notification that the gateway is in use and immediately makes me appear online.


Having groups called Online and Offline helps because all systems aside from AIM support offline messaging. So, I have easy access to my friends’ user IDs to send them offline messages.


Other benefits of having this setup include Yahoo, AIM, and MSN are now able to send me server based messages like email notifications; and upon logging into gmail one day when I was away from my mac, I was able to IM everyone (not just gmail users) from directly inside gmail using it’s integrated gTalk client!

One question that I am left with is why do these gateways seem more reliable than when my jabber ID was not on google? The gateways themselves are not on google’s servers.

2 Replies to “iChat + gTalk = Universal IM Client”

  1. Thanks for the info on the “browse service” command. I was originally just using jabber for aim and msn – Now I have my Gtalk contacts too. 🙂 It was such a hastle having to log in and out just to use 2 different jabber servers.
    Joel at 06/04/2006 01:55:25 am

  2. I agree. I have found this setup to be very reliable. Except for Yahoo IM. But, I think that is a problem in the transport itself and not the link from gTalk. So, every time I sign on in iChat (or PSI from work) I am automatically signed in to AIM/ICQ/MSN and gTalk.
    Steven at 06/07/2006 05:34:55 am

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