My daughter has reached an age where all her friends are on MSN. While the school is concerned about it, I think that (occasionally monitored) online chat is actually a useful skill. Most of the chat is what youíd expect of tweens, misunderstandings and hurt feelings can happen very easily. Thatís just like email.
I refuse to run MSN Messenger though. I just think itís sufficiently insecure and closed source to be avoided. Most kids donít know how MSN works, so they just do what their chat partner tells them to do. Iíd rather my kids not install things just so they can get a neat smiley.
I also want to use protocols other than MSN. Jabber is used by a couple of my clients. I also want to experiment with VOIP. So Iíve selected†GAIM as the multi-protocol instant messenger client around here. My kids can chat with friends and also with me when Iím travelling. GAIM†supports AIM, Yahoo Messenger, Jabber, Google Talk, ICQ, Gadu-Gadu, and even IRC protocols in one client. That means I donít need to run multiple clients just to chat for business or pleasure.
A friend of ours has a laptop that is so locked down by their Fortune 500 IT department that MSN wonít start. Which means she canít chat to her daughter when sheís travelling. Iíve installed aMSN as an alternative. Itís a near perfect clone of MSN messenger, so the whole family knows how to use it immediately.
Update: My daughter was so impressed by aMSN sheís asked to install it on her desktop. Weíll see how it compares to the multi-protocol GAIM. Given all her friends are on MSN Iím worried that I may be forced to stick to MSN protocol when chatting to her.