Okay, I'm Connected. Now What?
Good question. For starters, you have everything the Internet has to offer. You can surf the Web (which I cover in Chapter 10), send e-mail (Chapter 11), and find and download software, music, and video. The Internet is a vast cornucopia of news, information, conversation, sights, sounds, and a thousand other things. When looking at all this, it is easy to forget that it really all comes down one thing communication.
The Internet was born on communication; e-mail specifically was the tool that drove its development into the globe-spanning network that it is today. That's why I devote all of Chapter 11 to electronic mail.
These days, however, a new kind of communication has evolved call it "mini e-mail." The one-liner. The short and sweet message. The instant message. People in our Net-connected society have grown to love those quick, always-on means of sending one another information. My own parents (who live in another Canadian province) send me a daily one-line weather report via their Jabber instant messaging client. If you are coming from the Windows world, there's a good chance you already have one of these accounts, either with Yahoo!, AOL, MSN, or Jabber.
There are several reasons aside from the two I just mentioned (open source and open protocol). The Jabber protocol doesn't belong to any one in particular, so there is no company driving its destiny (although there are companies using Jabber). Jabber uses a decentralized approach, so the system is more robust. In fact, anyone can run a Jabber server if he or she wants to. This is a boon to companies that may want to run a private, secure instant messaging network.
Whether you choose to run Jabber, Yahoo!, MSN, or something else, the ideal instant messaging client is a multiprotocol client, one that lets you talk to all these services without having to run a client for Jabber, one for AOL, one for Yahoo!, one for . . . well, you get the idea. Let's look at KDE's Kopete, a superb Linux instant messaging client with great multiprotocol support and IRC as well.