Practicality of Trillian in the Rapidly Evolving IM Landscape
I've been an avid Trillian user until fairly recently (as in this week). I used Trillian to replace all the IM systems I use:
AOL Instant Messenger
For most things I need, Trillian does the job -- yes, I'd like file transfers, but it's a "nice to have" more than a "need to have" for me. More than anything, Trillian is much more resource friendly than the combination of the above IM platforms, with ICQ and AIM being by far the worst offenders, IMO.
However, this week I've begun reverting away from Trillian. I still use Trillian daily, though it's no longer my sole IM environment. I do miss the unified buddy list, but the plusses of using Trillian simply don't outweigh the minuses at this point, at least in my case. So now I run 3 IM clients -- Yahoo, MSN, and I use Trillian to connect to ICQ and AIM.
I had to switch back to Yahoo because I couldn't deal with the buggy implementation in Trillian -- I have ~100 Yahoo buddies and Trillian never loads them all properly. Others have posted about the problem, and undoubtedly it'll be addressed in 0.64, but I live in the real world and need something that works today, so until then, I'm forced to go back to Yahoo Messenger. That's the primary reason for the switch back to Yahoo, however things like easily being able to set an away message without navigating multiple menus -- nuisances more than outright bugs I grant you -- were refreshing to come across again. I also forgot how often I used to look at the weather and stocks tab in Yahoo Messenger...again nice to have features rather than need to have.
Switching back to using MSN Messenger was almost unavoidable for me. Microsoft is bulking up in terms of features and functionality that it's going to deliver ala IM, and I use some of those services already. Others have alluded to them in the past -- stock alerts and the like -- but with .NET being a driving force for the company, those features have become more essential to me. Additionally, and this is quite maddening, MSN Messenger is becoming more and more integrated into Microsoft's other product offerings such as Outlook 2002/XP, Outlook Express, and the MSN ISP service. When I look at an email in Outlook 2002, for example, I can see if the sender happens to be online at the moment (presuming he's in my buddy list, of course). I don't think Trillian is ever going to achieve that level of integration -- where I can just literally swap out MSN Messenger for Trillian and get almost all of the same functionality.
So I've comprimised. If/when Trillian gets the buddy list issues worked out with Yahoo, I might go back. Though to be honest, I really miss having people's away messages show up in parenthesis after their names (ie: Elvis Presley (Dead But Still Rockin')), and it's been nice to have again in Yahoo.
It's no big secret that regardless of whether development has slowed or not, it is undeniable that releases have definitely slowed significantly. This isn't a criticism so much as a statement of fact. Meanwhile, well funded companies with varying agendas are working fast and furious on developing new features and functionality into their IM systems. So the question I ask now is whether Trillian can ultimately survive in a landscape such as the one we're in now? I can certainly see file transfers around the corner, but beyond that, things are very murky. I need/want the tabs that are available to me under Yahoo Messenger as well as the alerts in MSN Messenger. Undoubtedly AIM will eventually develop some feature I really want/need, though their development cycles seem to have slowed significantly relative to Microsoft and Yahoo's -- how will Trillian respond to these issues? Will I be able to use the features I value the most in MSN and Yahoo?
How rapidly Trillian's developers choose to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape will determine, IMO, the ultimate longevity of this handy tool. Nobody expects the developers to be able to do it all -- that's difficult under the best of circumstances. However, to date, they have chosen not to publish any API or other extensibility or plugin mechanism by which users could extend as well as implement new functionality into Trillian. I myself have volunteered to write a Jabber module for Trillian -- not because I use Jabber extensively (truth be told, I rarely use it in comparison to the other IMs I've mentioned) -- but to contribute a piece of code back to the community and perhaps to eventually extend other parts of Trillian's functionality (such as MSN Alerts). When I emailed the developers, I eventually got a reply that said the API wasn't finalized, etc...and wouldn't be for some time. I don't bring this up to whine so much as to bring up the point that ultimately, in order for Trillian to survive in this landscape it must open itself up and become far more extensible than it currently is -- certainly such flexibility is something that most users would be able to take advantage of, especially when specific pieces of functionality are wanted. In addition, it certainly reduces the focus on 'the next release' to some degree, allowing those with the knowledge to be able to change/add functionality they want that may not be a current priority for developers. That said, Trillian has been a good product to me in the past and will hopefully remain so in the future.