Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, May 25, 2001

New breeds of instant messengers

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May, 2001

In this article:

1. Excite
2. Odigo
3. Imici
4. 100 list

As an avid and frequent user of collaboration and online messaging tools, I have been recently testing a number of new instant messaging tools, that allow in one way or other to send instant messages to friends and colleagues who are online at the same time.

The more advanced among these offer also the ability to text chat, to send attachments and files, and in some cases to hold live voice exchanges and even voice conferences among multiple parties.

There are now a great number of these messaging tools (over one hundred of them!) and while Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ hold the greatest number of users, and have established themselves as reliable and useful tools, there are new promising breed of instant messengers sporting new features and functions which reveal where the future of these tools is.

Excite Messenger
= interesting, promising

Excite Messenger is a brand new IM (Instant Messenger)featuring many multimedia features.

It is still a bit unstable but it looks like a promising tool for the ones of you who are lucky enough to have a speedy connection (56K and above).

While Excite Messenger sports a nice and slick interface, it provides a number of good services and facilities, previously unavailable in other IMs.

Excite Messenger misses all of the file exchange and peer-to-peer features we have been looking at so far, but breaks new grounds in integrating rich media content in a tiny little desktop tool.

The facilities and services that Excite Messenger provides are:

Basic Instant Messaging: Like with the other tools you know you can create also here your "buddy list" to talk to your friends instantly.

Buddy Card: With this interesting feature, it is possible to share photos, Web links, and up-to-date contact information.

Personalised Content: this is one of the features that I personally liked the most. You can in fact customise much of the specialized content Excite Messenger can download for you. For example under the section Wheather, one can set to see the next 3-day forecast for any number of cities in the world. I was then able to easily setup a view that instantly shows me the present and expected wheather conditions not only here in Rome, but also in Manila, Bangkok, Cairo and Surabaya (Indonesia). Quite impressive and useful for a frequent traveller.

The same customisation power can be applied to sport and stock news, and radio and TV listings. Unfortunately, this last category is heavily biased in favour of US programming though you can find listings for global TV networks as ESPN, CNN and others.

Email: This feature allows to get notified of new email messages without the need to open a Web browser or your email program.

Online radio: Excite Messenger offers also a nifty set of preselected online radio stations which can be easily tuned in at any time. I liked the easy way to get at them, and I enjoyed for the first time in a long time, an easy access to my favourite San Francisco radio, without a glitch.

Search: This is a simple interface utility that will call in your browser to perform custom and specialty searches on the appropriate Excite custom search section.

Future in the stars: Excite Messenger offers also a well integrated personal horoscope, which I found better than many similar services seen before. Inobtrusive as all other features, it allows to automatically read within the IM interface your daily horoscope, and if you want the one of any other sign. Interestingly enough, the few times I have consulted it, it was right on the mark.

Overall, very interesting, though geared to who has good and speedy connections (prove me wrong, please).

Nonetheless its version number (hidden in the Help menu of the IM, the program is basically brand new, and as all, it is still buggy. Be prepared for some unexpected Excite Messenger crashes, at least until a new release is out. Mine is

You can download your own FREE copy of Excite Messenger at:

Excite Messenger exists in two versions: for PCs and Macs.

These are its system requirements
PC: • Windows 95/98/2000/NT/ME Internet Explorer 4.0 or Netscape Navigator 4.0 or higher

Macintosh: • MacOS 7.6.1 through MacOS 9.x QuickTime 3.0 (QuickTime 4 for the Tune In module) Internet Explorer 4.0 or Netscape Navigator 4.0 or higher

Download your free copy of Excite Messenger at:

Click here to go to the top of this page !

Odigo version 3
= interesting, promising

Andy Wadsworth of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign introduced me to Tribal Voice PowWow over two years ago at the ITQ-2 (Improving Training Quality through Peer Learning and Distance Mentoring )workshop in Bangkok.

Pow-Wow (another instant messenger, now defunct) developed first connections to AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and MSN Messenger. But PowWow has now disappeared, and Odigo 3.0 has taken its place as the interconnected buddy list to beat.
Version 3.0 of this IM application connects with AIM, ICQ, and Yahoo Messenger; has improved e-mail notification; and it offers private chat rooms.

Another great feature of Odigo is the nice set of useful extras that are provided with the program and which are just as simple to use. One very fascinating feature is the one that allows you to meet and chat with fellow online surfers who happen to be on the same site you are visiting. It is like meeting other people in line outside a movie theatre or outside a shop window. It is nice because you get to ask and find out opinions and recommendations about the site information and services you are looking at, and you can precisely select to filter the type, gender, age, and other demographics of people you want to meet and chat with.

Like Excite Messenger the program is capable of notifying you when you have new email messages waiting and shows as well their subject lines.

Through Odigo 3.0 you can also utilise private chat rooms, and it has a new window that displays content from selected Web sites. Odigo also includes voice chat with other Odigo users (if you have a soundcard, microphone and speakers or a headset).

Co-surfing is an exciting new feature of Odigo in which users in a chat room can surf together to other sites. When you find an interesting site and want others to join you, browse to the site, open the "Co-Surf" box, select the site from the menu and click the Co-surf "Send" button. Users who have chosen to Co-surf will automatically browse to the site you suggested. You can attach or detach yourself from the other co-surfers by clicking the attach/detach button, which is located to the right of the "History" button. You can view the icon on the button, or mouse-over the icon to know your current co-surfing status.

Note: Odigo 3 features a Smart Download installer tool. After downloading a 62k installer file, you will be prompted to choose the appropriate language and download plug-ins for ICQ, Yahoo, and AIM interoperability. The fully installed program is 4.1MB in size.

If you are having troubles with AIM interoperability, you may need to download the latest patch, available from the Odigo plug-ins page.

Odigo has shown great perseverance in fighting the closed and conservative attitude of AOL, which has not yet given up its resistance to open access to its network of IM users to other IMs like Odigo. And while AOL keeps shutting down access to Odigo users, as it has happened all the times during my testing, Odigo has nonetheless shown to have unique and unrelented initiative and desire to bring a unique and valuable product to the market.

Specific features to be found on Odigo:

Send flowers or other gifts to another user with only that person's email address or Odigo ID as the receiving address.

PhoneDate - Talk to your Odigo friends via an anonymous phone line without releasing your personal phone number.

Email Notification - Odigo will notify you when you receive a new email.

Animated Emotion - Send and receive animated emotion messages from Feelingz.

Audio/Video Message - Send Inspar recorded audio and video messages to your Odigo friends.

If you're looking to migrate away from AIM or ICQ or if you have buddies scattered across messenger clients, Odigo is indisputably the best alternative.

*PROS*: Connects you with users of compatible messengers; integrates file sharing to allow others to access your hard disk.

Operates with ICQ, Yahoo Instant Messenger, and AIM buddy lists.

Finds other Odigo buddies on Web sites.

Offers voice chat with other Odigo users.

Once you import your buddies, Odigo shows which ones are online and displays which messenger program they're using. You can send them messages as if they, too, were using Odigo. Your buddies can also see you online in any of the supported instant messengers.

Lots of tech support via e-mail forms or through the extensive online help and FAQ center.

Odigo is available in 21 languages, including Chinese, Arabic, Thai, Russian, Japanese, Tagalog and many others.

Odigo exists in both versions for the PC and the Macintosh.


*CONS*: Lacks advanced privacy features; confusing, tabbed interface.

If your friends or colleagues are not using Odigo you can send them only instant messages or URLs. You can't conduct a voice chat or a multiparty conference or send files to AOL, Yahoo, or ICQ users. Only Odigo-to-Odigo contacts can utilise these advanced features.

Odigo does not have basic privacy features such as the ability of going into "invisible" mode in order not to be "seen" online by colleagues and friends, even if logged into Odigo.

No help files.

Unreliable connection with AIM and ICQ users.

File-sharing security provides no options. All or nothing. This should be improved.

To connect to my YM (Yahoo Messenger) account I needed to reinsert the data four times. The fourth time I got connected but the YM server dropped me after 10 seconds.

The connection to AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) went ok. But after 10 seconds the AOL servers sent me a message telling me that I was not using an original AIM client and then dropped the connection.

I was not able to retrieve my lost ID for my previous Odigo account and I was forced to create a new one.

EXPERT ADVICE: If you have friends utilizing different types of Instant Messengers like AOL, Yahoo, MSN Messenger and ICQ, Odigo is the must-have IM that can bring them all together on your PC or Mac desktop.

The interface has still great limitations, and cannot compare with the ones of the bigger brothers Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, and ICQ, but the great bonuses and features make Odigo certainly worth a second chance.

Download your free copy of Odigo at: homepage.html

Click here to go to the top of this page !

Imici Messenger
= worth knowing

Just upgraded to version 2.1, this new player in the IM arena, is just starting to become reliable and interesting.

Imici sports strong intercompatibility with other IM networks, including Yahoo Messenger, AOL IM, ICQ, MSN Messenger.


*PROS*: Auto-responder. You can create a message that is sent back when you are not a your PC.

As for Odigo you can co-browse websites together with other Imici users.

Through Imici you can also select which IM network to use when sending messages to your buddies.

Capability to have chat conferences with other users on Imici, AIM, Yahoo and MSN.

Auto-Importing of Imici, AIM, Yahoo, and MSN contact lists.

Universal contact list that follows you to any computer.

Also of interest Imici Anywhere, which is a browser-based version of this Instant Messenger. Though it cannot interoperate with other IM network users (AOL, ICQ, Yahoo, MSN) it allows you to exchange with other Imici-based users, from any computer that has web access.


*CONS*: No privacy feature is yet available apart from blocking specific users that you can select.

Cannot send files to other friends online.

An annoying message saying that the other user is not at his/her machine keeps popping up while I am in fact chatting with that very person.

Available for both the PC and FreeBSD and Linux clients. A macintosh version is on its way. Download your free copy at:

Click here to go to the top of this page !

Complete updated list of Instant Messaging Tools

Find here a complete list of over 100 instant messaging tools you can download for free. 1,10150,0-10001-103-0-1- 7,00.html? tag=srch&qt=Instant+messaging&cn =&ca=10001

Readers' Comments    
2010-10-14 10:45:18


Well AIM has that feature now, where you can see what they're typing. So there you go, don't need POWWOW anymore. Try it (:

2004-10-17 00:43:39

Joyce R.

Would it be possible for someone to duplicate the Powwow program that Tibal Voice had a few years ago. In my opinion, it was the best IM in features as well as ease of use. With Powwow my family was able to have nightly family meetings and all chat at the same time something that eludes ICQ, and the others. When I say chat, I mean see the others type....... not the IM where you have to type and click "send."

I would love to see Powwow reborn.

posted by Robin Good on Friday, May 25 2001, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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