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.
Getting started with eBuddy is quick and easy. If you want to forgo setting up an account and start using the service immediately, all you need to do is go to eBuddy's home page (eBuddy.com). There, you will see a box in the center of the screen with the logos of eBuddy's compatible profiles (MySpace, Facebook, AIM, MSN, GTalk, ICQ and Yahoo). Simply sign in to to the account you are interested in using, and a few seconds (and an advertisement) later, eBuddy will have assimilated your contacts. Of course, you have to repeat these steps for each additional profile you want to use. Even though the login time is relatively brief, you'll need a few extra minutes if you want to link up contacts from multiple accounts.
If you don't want to sign in to multiple profiles every time you log in to chat, you'll probably want to set up an eBuddy ID. Establishing your eBuddy ID is straightforward and doesn't take much more time than you'd need to sign in to several accounts. It's also a one-time only process, so if you plan on using eBuddy again, all you have to do is enter a password and all your contacts will be waiting. Click on the "eBuddy ID" link at the top of the homepage to get started.
Setting up an account with eBuddy Mobile Messenger on your BlackBerry, PDA or cell phone is slightly more complicated because you must download a small application before you can use the service. Like everything else on eBuddy, it's free and relatively small (less than a megabyte), but it does take up precious space on your device's hard drive. What's more, it's only available on a select number of devices. Luckily, the Lite Messenger service works for many of the devices excluded from Messenger -- like the iPhone -- and doesn't require a download. However, many of the features present in regular eBuddy and Mobile Messenger (such as avatar customization and the ability to send pictures) are missing, which can be frustrating for those accustomed to the full service.
Once you're set up, using eBuddy is easy, and anyone familiar with managing contacts and instant messages shouldn't have any problems. Options, contacts and text boxes are clearly laid out and easy to see, regardless of the version you're using.
Benefits of eBuddy
Aside from the fact that it's free, eBuddy's accessibility is undoubtedly one of the reasons for its continued popularity. Nearly every device that can connect to the Internet can use some version of eBuddy. The only requirement for computers and some mobile devices is Java capability, and any mobile device that supports xHTML or Wireless Application Protocol (which is virtually all of them) can use either Mobile Messenger or Lite Messenger [source: eBuddy]. Part of the reason it remains such a popular option for chat junkies across the globe is because it's available in 37 different languages, encompassing everything from Standard English to Brazilian Portuguese, with more languages to be added later [source: eBuddy].
No one who uses instant messaging should have any difficulty using eBuddy. Standard features on most chat programs, such as adding and grouping contacts, changing the color and style of your font and quick access to emoticons are all available and easy to use. If you're on a computer and have a webcam handy, you can even video chat.
eBuddy is also useful to those of us who like breaking the rules. If you feel like spending some company time chatting with friends instead of working, you're covered. The program evades most firewalls simply because there's nothing to download. As long as your IT administrator hasn't blocked the eBuddy Web site (and your boss doesn't catch you), you shouldn't run into any problems.
There are, however, some definite downsides to using eBuddy. You can't do anything on the service without having to sit through an advertisement first. In addition, if you spend a lot of time using eBuddy on a cell phone, the free service can quickly turn into an expensive pastime, as your mobile carrier will charge you for your Internet usage. It's not eBuddy's fault, but it is something to consider if you plan to do a lot of instant messaging on the go. Any updates you make in eBuddy won't transfer back to your original contact list. If you use eBuddy to change the address of one your MySpace contacts, for example, you'll still have to go back and re-enter the new information on MySpace.
Despite its drawbacks, eBuddy remains a popular application used by millions of people across the globe every day. Its cost, simple interface and accessibility have allowed the Dutch company to become the most successful independent Web and mobile instant messaging provider in the world [source: Reuters].
To learn more about instant messaging, online social networking and related topics, look at the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Cassavoy, Liane. "eBuddy Review." PC World. 05/08/07. (Accessed 05/04/09)http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/29947/review/.html
- eBuddy. "Web and Mobile Messaging, for Everyone Everywhere." 2009. (05/04/09)http://www.eBuddy.com
- GetJar. "Most Popular Downloads." 05/05/09. (05/06/09)http://www.getjar.com
- Mobile Industry Review. "eBuddy - mjelly mobile 2.0 service of the week." 01/16/09. (05/04/09)http://www.mobileindustryreview.com/2009/01/ebuddy_-_mjelly_mobile_20_service_of_the_week.html
- Reuters. "GetJar Delivers 10M Downloads for eBuddy Mobile Messenger." 03/19/09. (05/06/09)http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS166671+19-Mar-2009+BW20090319