If modern technology has taught us anything, it's that people like to talk. Therefore, it's not surprising that there are so many different gadgets and programs out there designed to help them do it. From cell phones to laptops to BlackBerrys, virtually every device manufactured today houses myriad communication functions. Even the modern-day equivalent of the Walkman -- the iPod -- finds itself transformed into an Internet-ready networking device with the iPhone and iPod Touch.
But how easy is it to correspond with the people in your life? In today's fast-paced, multitasking world, it's not unusual for a person to hold multiple e-mail accounts and to regularly update his or her profile on several social networking Web sites. In fact, just organizing all one's social contacts can get confusing. That's where eBuddy comes in.
Founded in Amsterdam in 2003 by Dutch executives Jan-Joost Rueb and Onno Bakker as e-Messenger (they changed the name in 2006), eBuddy started out as "the world's first, independent, web browser-based instant messaging service" [source: eBuddy]. Today, eBuddy provides free chat to an average of 18,000,000 unique visitors each month [source: Reuters]. eBuddy works with AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), MSN, Yahoo, ICQ and Google Talk (GTalk), as well as MySpace and Facebook, so those with multiple contact lists can consolidate them all seamlessly into eBuddy's service. For users, this removes the hassle of navigating through multiple windows and programs just to maintain a conversation. In fact, the average eBuddy user has more than 200 different contacts, so it's easy to see why the service has become so popular [source: eBuddy].
eBuddy's free chat service isn't tied exclusively to computers, however. In June 2007, the company launched its mobile chat service, eBuddy Mobile Messenger. Providing the same basic services as the Web version, Mobile Messenger consolidates multiple contact lists into a single program for cell phones and other mobile devices. For the gadgets that can't access Mobile Messenger (like iPhones and older-model cell phones), eBuddy has a separate program called Lite Messenger. Lite Messenger lacks several of the features present in the other versions of eBuddy, but it's compatible with almost any machine that connects to the Internet, including the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP. Yes, now it's possible to IM in between bouts of gaming on the go.On the next page, we'll teach you the ins and outs of using eBuddy. We'll show you how to do everything from setting up an account to explaining which versions of eBuddy allow you to upload your own avatar. Conversing with 200 different contacts is still up to you, however.