How to Get SmarterChild on MSN

Chat anywhere

Emails are out. Not only in the USA, instant messages (IM) have already overtaken electronic letters. There, around 70 million Internet users send instant messages over the Internet. With instant messaging, messages are transported from the sender to the recipient over the Internet at lightning speed and appear on their screen in a separate window.

There are around 150 million IM fans worldwide, and in this country too, the fast form of communication is becoming increasingly popular. Bare text messages are already a thing of the past, sound and images are part of everyday life in the IM community. And the developers are working hard to get the instant messages moving - so that they can be sent and received while on the move:

- The best known and oldest messenger is ICQ ("I seek you"), the latest version of which ICQ2002a is now on the market. ICQ is something for advanced users, because the messenger offers a lot of functions that are confusing for beginners. The current version is more closely linked to the ICQ webmail account and can be integrated into Outlook with its own toolbar. Other participants can be tracked down using certain keywords. Better spam functions, support for Windows XP and proxy complete the offer. However, it is not yet possible to use a webcam. ICQ users can receive and reply to SMS messages from 160 networks worldwide - in Germany via E-Plus and D1. The integrated lingoware translates SMS and IM into 58 languages. ICQ works on PDAs and is expected to be ready for use with WAP or GPRS from June on the Siemens M50 mobile phone.

- AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is a very easy-to-use and popular entry-level model. Version 4.7 provides the user with news and information in the "AIM Today" window. AIM 4.7 is Windows XP compatible and supports proxy servers, which simplifies use in corporate networks. AIM has all common instant messenger standards such as emoticons, chat rooms and telephony. AIM can be used on mobile devices via PDAs, it does not yet run on cell phones.

- The Microsoft Messenger MSN can send messages to pagers and mobile phones and works mobile on a PocketPC. PC-to-PC, PC-to-landline and PC-to-cellular telephony are also possible, as with ICQ and AIM. The use of a webcam in Microsoft Windows XP Messenger is interesting, as it enables users to see each other in video chat. Video conferences with several participants can be carried out via Microsoft Netmeeting. Files can also be edited at the same time.

- The new Yahoo Messenger will hit the market in mid-May. The version then supports video chat via webcam. The so-called IMVironment is new. This allows users to set up thematic user interfaces. Typed can be saved in a message archive and called up again. The Yahoo Messenger can be used on PDAs, messages can be received and sent via WAP cell phones.

The downside with all of these tools: They are not compatible with each other. AIM, MSN and Yahoo users can only chat with their own kind, that's what the providers want - especially AOL. Nevertheless: There are messengers that build a bridge between the services. Trillian, for example, enables communication with ICQ, AIM, MSN and Yahoo users. The tool automatically fetches the buddy lists from the servers and enables the main functions of the respective messenger, but no video chats and telephony. Odigo works in a similar way, a "PeopleFinder" is integrated here, which tracks down like-minded people using certain search filters. Odigo has voice chat, but overall it's not as sophisticated as Trillian. Other multi-messengers are Jabber, Imici (AOL, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, in the full version with costs!), T-Onlines TOM (ICQ, MSN), Eyeball Chat (AIM, MSN and Yahoo, video messages to his peers) and Rapman 2.6. (ICQ, MSN).

The development in the avatar sector is exciting: for example, the American company ActiveBuddy has developed the IM robot SmarterChild. If a user adds SmarterChild to his buddy list, he will spit out weather and country information, translations, news, web research and much more on request, but only via AIM and in English. SmarterChild already has seven million users and will be ready to provide information from May also on ICQ and later on MSN Messenger. The developer company wants to release the software for sale in the summer. Interested companies can then develop their own IM bots.

If you are looking for international contacts, the IM Translator (for ICQ, AIM, MSN and Yahoo) makes communication easier. The free tool can be downloaded from the Internet and translates, for example, from German into English, Russian and French and back.