Pidgin (software)

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Developer(s) the Pidgin developers</td></tr>
Initial release 1999</td></tr>
Written in C (C#, Perl, Python, Tcl are used for plugins)</td></tr>
Platform Cross-platform</td></tr>
Available in Multiple languages</td></tr>
Type Instant messaging client</td></tr>
License GNU General Public License</td></tr>

</table> Pidgin (formerly named Gaim) is a multi-platform instant messaging client, based on a library named libpurple. Libpurple has support for many commonly used instant messaging protocols, allowing the user to log into various different services from one application.

The number of Pidgin users was estimated to be over 3 million in 2007.[1] Both Pidgin and libpurple are free software, released under the terms of the GNU General Public License.



File:Pidgin Screenshot Ubuntu.png
Pidgin's tabbed chat window in Ubuntu

Pidgin is a graphical front-end for libpurple using GTK+.[2] Libpurple is notable for its support for multiple instant messaging protocols.

Pidgin supports multiple operating systems, including Windows as well as many Unix-like systems such as Linux, BSD, Mac OS X, and AmigaOS (through the X11 engine). It has built-in support for NSS, offering client-to-server message encryption for protocols that support it. The program is extendable through plugins, including "Off-the-Record Messaging" and Pidgin encryption,[3] providing end-to-end message encryption.

Pidgin features some of the standard tools for an instant messaging client, such as a contact list, file transfer on supported protocols, and conversation and chat logging. Tabbed conversations is an optional feature on Pidgin. The IM window consists of the message window, formatting tools, and an edit box.

Contacts (usually known as "Buddies") are added by the "Buddy List" window or by the IM window. As a client that supports IRC and other chat programs, it can also add different IRC channels and IM Chats. Contacts with multiple protocols can be grouped into one single contact instead of managing multiple protocols and contacts can be given aliases as well or placed into groups.

To reach users as they log on or a status change occurs (such as moving from "Away" to "Available"), Pidgin supports on-action automated scripts called Buddy Pounces to automatically reach the user in customizable ways.

Pidgin supports some file transfers, with the ability to pause, resume, and cancel transfers and observe multiple transfers in a separate window, lacking more advanced features like folder sharing from Yahoo. However, when used through the MSN protocol, file transfers are slow, as data is routed through MSN servers to the receiver, instead of utilizing a faster peer-to-peer functionality.[4] A Google Summer of Code project aimed to add peer-to-peer functionality in 2007.[5] Support for MSNP15 was added in version 2.5.0 but did not include support for peer-to-peer transfers.[6]

As of version 2.6 (released on August 18, 2009) Pidgin has a voice/video framework which uses Farsight2 and is based on Mike Ruprecht's Google Summer of Code project from 2008.[7] That release provides the ability to have voice/video conversations using the XMPP protocol (including Google Talk), though the implementation is not yet fully complete. The framework will also allow for voice/video conversations on other protocols, such as MSN and Yahoo, in the future.[8]

Further features include support for themes, emoticons, spell checking, and notification area integration.[9]

Supported protocols

The following protocols are officially supported by libpurple 2.6.4, without any extensions or plugins[10]:

Some XMPP servers provide transports, which allow users to access networks using non-XMPP protocols without having to install plugins or additional software. Pidgin's support for XMPP means that these transports can be used to communicate via otherwise unsupported protocols, including not only instant messaging protocols, but also protocols such as SMS or E-mail.

Additional protocols, supported by third-party plugins, include Skype,[11] the social network Facebook's chat feature,[12] and the Xfire gaming network (requires the Gfire plugin).[13]


Various other features are supported using third-party plugins.[14] Such features include:

  • Encryption and privacy, through Off-the-Record Messaging
  • Notifications (such as showing "toaster" popups or Snarl notifications, or lighting LEDs on laptops)
  • Showing contacts what you are listening to in various media players
  • Adding mathematical formulas written in LaTeX to conversations
  • Watching videos directly into your conversation when receiving a video sharing website link (YouTube, Vimeo)


Gaim 2.0.0 beta 6 running under GNOME 2.16.0

The program was originally written in or before 1999 by Mark Spencer, an Auburn University sophomore, as an emulation of AOL's IM program AOL Instant Messenger on Linux using the GTK+ toolkit.[15] It was named GAIM (GTK+ AOL Instant Messenger) accordingly. The emulation was not based on reverse engineering, but instead relied on information about the protocol that AOL had published on the web; development was also assisted by some of AOL's technical staff.[15][16] Support for other IM protocols was added soon thereafter.[15]

Naming dispute

In response to pressure from AOL, the program was renamed to the acronymous-but-lowercase gaim. As AOL Instant Messenger gained popularity, AOL trademarked its acronym, "AIM", leading to a lengthy legal struggle with the program's creators, who kept the matter largely secret.[17]

On April 6 2007, the project development team announced the results of their settlement with AOL, which included a series of name changes: Gaim became Pidgin, libgaim became libpurple, and gaim-text became finch.[18] The name Pidgin was chosen in reference to the term "pidgin", which describes communication between people who do not share a common language.[19] The name "purple" refers to "prpl", the internal libgaim name for an IM protocol plugin.

Due to the legal issues, version 2.0 of the software was frozen in beta stages. Following the settlement, it was announced that the first official release of Pidgin 2.0.0 was hoped to occur during the two weeks from April 8, 2007.[20] However, Pidgin 2.0 was not released as scheduled; Pidgin developers announced on April 22, 2007 that the delay was due to the preferences folder ".gaim".[21]

Pidgin 2.0.0 was released on May 3, 2007. This was the first release version to be called Pidgin, and contained a completely new graphics design.[22]


  • Passwords are stored in a cleartext file. This password file is readable by anyone who has physical access to the computer, access to the user or administrative accounts, or (potentially) to anyone who is able to exploit security vulnerabilities on that computer. The developers recognize this as a security concern, but believe that the requirements of Pidgin (and the nature of instant messaging) make it infeasible to encrypt the password file, though they have said that they welcome solutions to integrate Pidgin with application-level security solutions.[23]
  • Pidgin does not currently support resuming paused or incomplete file transfers in any of the applicable chat protocols.[24][25][26]
  • As of version 2.4 and later, the ability to manually resize the text input box of conversations has been altered - Pidgin now automatically resizes between a number of lines set in 'Preferences' and 50% of the window depending on how much is typed. Some users find this an annoyance rather than a feature and find this solution unacceptable. The inability to manually resize the input area eventually led to a fork, Carrier.[27][28][29]

Other notable software based on libpurple

  • Adium and Proteus are instant messaging clients for Mac OS X that support multiple protocols through libpurple.
  • Meebo is a multi-protocol web-based instant messaging client that uses libpurple.[30]
  • Empathy is a multi-protocol instant messaging client which uses Pidgin/libpurple for some of its protocol support.

See also


  1. Luke Schierer discusses Pidgin, Open source and life. Interview by PC World Australia, 10 October 2007
  2. "What Is Libpurple - Pidgin - Trac". Retrieved 2009-03-22. 
  3. Pidgin-Encryption
  4. "Protocol Specific Questions — FAQ — Pidgin". Retrieved 2007-05-12. 
  5. "UpdateMsnSupport — Pidgin — Trac". Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  6. Bailey, John. "It's a bit late...". Retrieved 2008-09-19. 
  7. "Pidgin Changelog". Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  8. "Pidgin Voice and Video". Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  9. "About Pidgin". Retrieved 2007-05-12. 
  10. Pidgin developers. "Protocol Specific Questions". Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  11. "Skype API Plugin for Pidgin/libpurple/Adium". Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  12. "Plugins". Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  13. "ThirdPartyPlugins". Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  14. "Pidgin Third-Party Plugins". Retrieved 2009-09-22. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Matthew Herper: Better Instant Messaging Through Linux, , 16 July 2002
  16. GAIM: GTK+ America OnLine Instant Messenger Original project home page as February 10, 1999 (copy at the Internet Archive)
  18. " gaim-i18n". Retrieved 2007-04-11. ""Pidgin" for gaim itself, "libpurple" for libgaim, …and "finch" for gaim-text." 
  19. "Important and Long Delayed News". Retrieved 2007-05-01. [dead link]
  20. "News — Pidgin". Retrieved 2007-04-11. "Now that the settlement is signed, we hope to have the final Pidgin 2.0.0 release late this week or early next." 
  21. "Working towards 2.0.0". Retrieved 2007-04-22. [dead link]
  22. "Identity vs. Account Orientation". Retrieved 2007-05-01. 
  23. "Plain Text Passwords — Pidgin". Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
  24. "No Resume of broken file transfers". Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  25. "No dcc download resuming". Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  26. "No ability to resume in IRC file transfers". Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  27. "Text box resizing issue". Retrieved 2008-03-08. 
  30. "meebo from the backside". Retrieved 2008-10-03. 

External links

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