mikemuch writes "It's been a while since AOL stopped trying to jam third-party IM clients, and their use is now a fairly common desktop experience. ExtremeTech has posted a roundup of free alternatives to the standard IM software from the big boys — AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and MSN (now Windows Live) Messenger. The products are a mixed bag, some of them Web 2.0-based, like the excellent meebo and the ad-heavy eBuddy. Most give you combined message windows with tabs. GAIM is now Pidgin, Meetro tries to get you chatting with locals, and Trillian, now at version 3.1, remains the client to beat."