IM (Instant Messaging) clients have become invisible. We use them all the time to 'talk' with co-workers, chat with friends, and 'text' with family members on their phone. I do, anyway, because my IM client, Pidgin, works with almost every IM client in creation, and it makes chatting with anyone, anywhere, mindlessly simple. The newest version sports limited voice and video support as well.
Pidgin's current VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and video framework is rudimentary, but the promise is there. Today, you can only use voice and video over XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol), an open IM XML standard on Linux. However, what's important is that the framework is there. Adding voice and video to other IM protocols won't be easy, but the big first step had been taken now.
Pidgin already has the IM clients down pat: AIM, Google Talk, IRC, MSN, Sametime, et al. That said, I found that v2.6.1 has faster overall performance and fewer hiccups.
In particular, I noticed that Yahoo's IM has been greatly improved. Every now and again, I would lose connectivity with Yahoo using Pidgin -- and other IM clients -- but with this new version, my Yahoo connection is rock-solid.
I also have one friend I talk to in Japan with Yahoo. As it happens, Yahoo JAPAN isn't quite the same network as Yahoo in the States. With this new version, Pidgin has express support for the Yahoo JAPAN network and this new version has turned talking to my friend in Japan from a crapshoot to a sure thing.
This version also includes support for UTF-8 domain names, meaning Pidgin users will find it easier to talk to users from countries outside of the European language family.
This new edition also has primitive theme support. I'm not big into theming this, that, and the other thing, but those who will that sort of thing should keep an eye on Pidgin. I see big things ahead for this IM client. There's also a host of minor features such as the ability to receive voice clips and handwritten-ink messages on MSN and a TinyURL plug-in to let you easily turn long Web addresses into manageable IM-sized links. Pidgin 2.6.1 is available in source-code and is also ready to go versions for Windows, and the Ubuntu, Fedora, and Red Hat versions of Linux. I ran it on Fedora, Ubuntu, and had no trouble compiling it and running it on openSUSE. Clearly, Pidgin 2.6.1 is more about promises than delivery. Still, I still found the small changes to be more than enough to confirm to me that Pidgin is still the best multi-system IM client out there. And I'm really looking forward to see how the big changes work out in the next version. Pidgin is looking great, and it looks like it will be looking even better.