Pidgin (software)

Last updated

Pidgin 2.10.9.png
Pidgin's buddy list window in Trisquel
Initial releaseDecember 31, 1998;21 years ago (1998-12-31) (as Gaim)
Stable release 2.14.1 (June 11, 2020;4 months ago (2020-06-11) [1] ) [±]
Preview release None [±]
Repository OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Written in C (C#, Perl, Python, Tcl are used for plugins)
Platform Linux
Microsoft Windows
Available inMultiple languages [2]
Type Instant messaging client
License GPLv2+
Website   OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

Pidgin (formerly named Gaim) is a free and open-source multi-platform instant messaging client, based on a library named libpurple that has support for many instant messaging protocols, allowing the user to simultaneously log into various services from a single application, with a single interface for both popular and obsolete protocols (from AOL to Discord), thus avoiding the hassle of having to deal with a new bloated, unaudited, closed-source, and different piece of software for each device and protocol.


The number of Pidgin users was estimated to be over three million in 2007. [3]

Pidgin is widely used for its Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR) plugin, which offers end-to-end encryption. For this reason it is included in the privacy- and anonymity-focused operating system Tails. [4]


Gaim 2.0.0 beta 6 running under GNOME 2.16.0 Gaim-buddylist-2.0.0b6.png
Gaim 2.0.0 beta 6 running under GNOME 2.16.0

The program was originally written by Mark Spencer, an Auburn University sophomore, as an emulation of AOL's IM program AOL Instant Messenger on Linux using the GTK+ toolkit. [5] The earliest archived release was on December 31, 1998. [6] 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 assisted by some of AOL's technical staff. [5] [7] Support for other IM protocols was added soon thereafter. [5]

On 6 July 2015, Pidgin scored seven out of seven points on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's secure messaging scorecard. [8] They have received points for having communications encrypted in transit, having communications encrypted with keys the providers don't have access to (end-to-end encryption), making it possible for users to independently verify their correspondent's identities, having past communications secure if the keys are stolen (forward secrecy), having their code open to independent review (open source), having their security designs well-documented, and having recent independent security audits. [8]

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 creators of GAIM, who kept the matter largely secret. [9]

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 (the command-line interface version) became finch. The name Pidgin was chosen in reference to the term "pidgin", which describes communication between people who do not share a common language. [10] The name "purple" refers to "prpl", the internal libgaim name for an IM protocol plugin. [11]

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. [12] However, Pidgin 2.0 was not released as scheduled; Pidgin developers announced on April 22, 2007 that the delay was due to the preferences directory ".gaim". [13]

Pidgin 2.0.0 was released on May 3, 2007. Other visual changes were made to the interface in this version, including updated icons. [14]


Pidgin running on Ubuntu Pidgin Screenshot Ubuntu.png
Pidgin running on Ubuntu

Pidgin provides a graphical front-end for libpurple using GTK+. [15] Libpurple supports many instant-messaging protocols.

Pidgin supports multiple operating systems, including Windows and many Unix-like systems such as Linux, the BSDs, and AmigaOS. It is included by default in the operating systems Tails and Xubuntu.


The program is designed to be extended with plugins. Plugins are often written by third-party developers. They can be used to add support for protocols, which is useful for those such as Skype or Discord which have licensing issues (however, the users' data and interactions are still subject to their policies and eavesdropping). They can also add other significant features. For example, the "Off-the-Record Messaging" (OTR) plugin provides end-to-end encryption.

The TLS encryption system is pluggable, allowing different TLS libraries to be easily substituted. GnuTLS is the default, and NSS is also supported. Some operating systems' ports, such as OpenBSD's, choose to use OpenSSL or LibreSSL by default instead.


Contacts with multiple protocols can be grouped into one single contact instead of managing multiple protocols, and contacts can be given aliases 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.

File transfer

Pidgin supports file transfers for many protocols. It lacks some protocol-specific features like the folder sharing available from Yahoo. Direct, peer-to-peer file transfers are supported over protocols such as XMPP and MSN.

Voice and video chat

As of version 2.6 (released on August 18, 2009), Pidgin supports voice/video calls using Farstream. [16] As of July 2015, calls can only be initiated through the XMPP protocol. [17]


Further features include support for themes, emoticons, spell checking, and notification area integration. [18]

Supported protocols

The following protocols are officially supported by libpurple 2.12.0, without any extensions or plugins: [19]

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 Discord, [20] Telegram, [21] Microsoft OCS/LCS (extended SIP/SIMPLE), [22] Facebook Messenger, [23] QQ, [24] Skype via skype4pidgin plugin, [25] WhatsApp [26] , Signal [27] and the Xfire gaming network (requires the Gfire plugin). [28]


Various other features are supported using third-party plugins. [29] Such features include:


The mascot of Pidgin is a purple pigeon with the name of The Purple Pidgin. [31]


Other notable software based on libpurple

BitlBee and Minbif are IRCd-like gateways to multiple IM networks, and can be compiled with libpurple to increase functionality.

See also

Related Research Articles

AIM (software) Instant messaging service

AIM was an instant messaging and presence computer program created by AOL, which used the proprietary OSCAR instant messaging protocol and the TOC protocol to allow registered users to communicate in real time.

ICQ Instant messaging service

ICQ is a cross-platform messenger and VoIP client. The name ICQ derives from the English phrase "I Seek You". Originally developed by the Israeli company Mirabilis in 1996, the client was bought by AOL in 1998, and then by Mail.Ru Group in 2010.

Instant messaging Form of communication over the Internet

Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat that offers real-time text transmission over the Internet. A LAN messenger operates in a similar way over a local area network. Short messages are typically transmitted between two parties, when each user chooses to complete a thought and select "send". Some IM applications can use push technology to provide real-time text, which transmits messages character by character, as they are composed. More advanced instant messaging can add file transfer, clickable hyperlinks, Voice over IP, or video chat.

Trillian is a proprietary multiprotocol instant messaging application created by Cerulean Studios. It is currently available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS, BlackBerry OS, and the Web. It can connect to multiple IM services, such as AIM, Bonjour, Facebook Messenger, Google Talk (Hangouts), IRC, XMPP (Jabber), VZ, and Yahoo! Messenger networks; as well as social networking sites, such as Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and Twitter; and email services, such as POP3 and IMAP.

Messenger was an instant messaging and presence system developed by Microsoft in 1999 for use with its MSN Messenger software. It was used by instant messaging clients including Windows 8, Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft Messenger for Mac, and Xbox Live. Third-party clients also connected to the service. It communicated using the Microsoft Notification Protocol, a proprietary instant messaging protocol. The service allowed anyone with a Microsoft account to sign in and communicate in real time with other people who were signed in as well.

XMPP Communications protocol for message-oriented middleware

Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) is a communication protocol for message-oriented middleware based on XML. It enables the near-real-time exchange of structured yet extensible data between any two or more network entities. Originally named Jabber, the protocol was developed by the eponymous open-source community in 1999 for near real-time instant messaging (IM), presence information, and contact list maintenance. Designed to be extensible, the protocol has been used also for publish-subscribe systems, signalling for VoIP, video, file transfer, gaming, the Internet of Things (IoT) applications such as the smart grid, and social networking services.

Kopete free multiprotocol messenger

Kopete is a multi-protocol, free software instant messaging client released as part of the KDE Software Compilation. Although it can run in numerous environments, it was designed for and integrates with the KDE Plasma Workspaces. Kopete was started because ICQ blocked Licq from their network in 2001. According to the original author, Duncan Mac-Vicar Prett, the name comes from the Chilean Spanish word copete, meaning "a drink with your friends". Kopete has been nominated for multiple awards. The designated successor is KDE Telepathy from the KDE RTCC Initiative.

Adium instant messaging client

Adium is a free and open source instant messaging client for macOS that supports multiple IM networks, including Google Talk and XMPP. In the past, it has also supported AIM, ICQ, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger. Adium is written using macOS's Cocoa API, and it is released under the GNU General Public License and many other licenses for components that are distributed with Adium.

HCL Sametime is a client–server application and middleware platform that provides real-time, unified communications and collaboration for enterprises. Those capabilities include presence information, enterprise instant messaging, web conferencing, community collaboration, and telephony capabilities and integration. Currently it is developed and sold by HCL Software, a division of Indian company HCL Technologies, until 2019 by the Lotus Software division of IBM.

Google Talk Instant messaging service

Google Talk was an instant messaging service that provided both text and voice communication. The instant messaging service was variously referred to colloquially as Gchat, Gtalk, or Gmessage among its users.


BitlBee is a cross-platform IRC instant messaging gateway, licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License.

Gajim Free instant messaging client for the XMPP protocol

Gajim is an instant messaging client for the XMPP protocol which uses the GTK+ toolkit. The name Gajim is a recursive acronym for Gajim's a jabber instant messenger. Gajim runs on Linux, BSD and Microsoft Windows. Released under the GNU General Public License, Gajim is free software. A 2009 round-up of similar software on Tom's Hardware found version 0.12.1 "the lightest and fastest jabber IM client".

Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR) is a cryptographic protocol that provides encryption for instant messaging conversations. OTR uses a combination of AES symmetric-key algorithm with 128 bits key length, the Diffie–Hellman key exchange with 1536 bits group size, and the SHA-1 hash function. In addition to authentication and encryption, OTR provides forward secrecy and malleable encryption.

Skype for Business Server enterprise real-time communications server software

Skype for Business Server is real-time communications server software that provides the infrastructure for enterprise instant messaging, presence, VoIP, ad hoc and structured conferences and PSTN connectivity through a third-party gateway or SIP trunk. These features are available within an organization, between organizations and with external users on the public internet or standard phones.

Skype for Business instant messaging client

Skype for Business is enterprise instant messaging software developed by Microsoft as part of the Microsoft Office suite. It is designed for use with the on-premises Skype for Business Server software, and a software as a service version offered as part of Office 365. It supports text, audio, and video chat, and integrates with Microsoft Office components such as Exchange and SharePoint.

Jingle (protocol) communications protocol

Jingle is an extension to the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) which adds peer-to-peer (P2P) session control (signaling) for multimedia interactions such as in Voice over IP (VoIP) or videoconferencing communications. It was designed by Google and the XMPP Standards Foundation. The multimedia streams are delivered using the Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP). If needed, NAT traversal is assisted using Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE).

Telepathy is a software framework which can be used to make software for interpersonal communications such as instant messaging, Voice over IP or videoconferencing. Telepathy enables the creation of communications applications using components via the D-Bus inter-process communication mechanism. Through this it aims to simplify development of communications applications and promote code reuse within the free software and open source communities by defining a logical boundary between the applications and underlying network protocols.

Empathy (software) open source instant messaging and VoIP client

Empathy is an instant messaging (IM) and voice over IP (VoIP) client which supports text, voice, video, file transfers, and inter-application communication over various IM communication protocols.

Finch is an open-source console-based instant messaging client, based on the libpurple library. Libpurple has support for many commonly used instant messaging protocols, allowing the user to log into various services from one application. Finch uses GLib and ncurses.

OMEMO extension to XMPP for multi-client end-to-end encryption

OMEMO is an extension to the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) for multi-client end-to-end encryption developed by Andreas Straub. According to Straub, OMEMO uses the Double Ratchet Algorithm "to provide multi-end to multi-end encryption, allowing messages to be synchronized securely across multiple clients, even if some of them are offline". The name "OMEMO" is a recursive acronym for "OMEMO Multi-End Message and Object Encryption". It is an open standard based on the Double Ratchet Algorithm and the Personal Eventing Protocol . OMEMO offers future and forward secrecy and deniability with message synchronization and offline delivery.


  1. Kramlich, Gary (June 11, 2020). "Pidgin 2.14.1 Has been released!". Retrieved June 12, 2020.
  2. About Pidgin: Supported languages
  3. "Luke Schierer discusses Pidgin, Open source and life" Archived February 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine . PC World Australia, October 10, 2007.
  4. "Chatting with Pidgin and OTR". Tails. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  5. 1 2 3 Herper, Matthew (July 16, 2002). "Better Instant Messaging Through Linux"
  6. Crawford, J. (1999). "User Guide". Archived from the original on May 8, 1999. Retrieved October 15, 2011. As of now, the most recent sources are here (the file date is December 31, 1998)
  7. Spencer, Mark (1998). "GAIM: GTK+ America OnLine Instant Messenger". Original project home page. Archived from the original on February 10, 1999.
  8. 1 2 "Secure Messaging Scorecard. Which apps and tools actually keep your messages safe?". Electronic Frontier Foundation. November 4, 2014. Archived from the original on May 28, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  9. "Sean Egan's Blog - The Power of Momentum (continued)" Archived June 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine . May 23, 2007.
  10. "Important and Long Delayed News". April 6, 2007. Archived from the original on April 8, 2007. Retrieved October 15, 2011.
  11. "What's with the name libpurple, anyway?". Retrieved April 22, 2014.
  12. "Important and Long Delayed News". April 6, 2007. Archived from the original on April 8, 2007. Retrieved October 15, 2011. Now that the settlement is signed, we hope to have the final Pidgin 2.0.0 release late this week or early next.
  13. "Working towards 2.0.0". April 22, 2007. Archived from the original on April 25, 2007. Retrieved April 22, 2007.
  14. Egan, Sean (April 30, 2007). "Identity vs. Account Orientation". Archived from the original on May 4, 2007. Retrieved May 1, 2007.
  15. "What Is Libpurple - Pidgin - Trac". Retrieved March 22, 2009.
  16. "Changelog". Retrieved August 22, 2009.
  17. "Voice and Video". Retrieved August 22, 2009.
  18. "About Pidgin". Retrieved September 22, 2010.
  19. Pidgin developers. "Pidgin". Retrieved December 15, 2017.
  20. 1 2 "purple-discord github repository" . Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  21. GitHub - majn/telegram-purple: Adds support for Telegram to Pidgin, Adium, Finch and other Libpurple based messengers
  22. "SIPE Project" . Retrieved February 29, 2012.
  23. GitHub - Purple Facebook implements the Facebook Messenger protocol into pidgin, finch, and libpurple.
  24. "libqq". Retrieved June 14, 2011.
  25. "Skype "API Plugin for Pidgin/libpurple/Adium"". Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  26. "WhatsApp on your computer: Pidgin plugin". Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  27. "Signal on your computer: Pidgin plugin". Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  28. "Third Party Plugins". Retrieved March 2, 2009.
  29. "Pidgin Third-Party Plugins". Retrieved September 22, 2009.
  30. "SkypeWeb plugin github repository" . Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  31. bleeter. "#14764 (Name the Mascot Pidginski!) -- set to wontfix". Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  32. "Milestone 3.0.0--Pidgin". July 3, 2014.
  33. "KeyringSupport--Pidgin". July 3, 2014.
  34. "Ticket #5769 (new enhancement) - Resume broken file transfers". May 11, 2008. Retrieved October 15, 2011.
  35. "Ticket #7486 (closed enhancement: duplicate) - xdcc download-resuming-support". November 7, 2008. Retrieved December 30, 2008.
  36. "Ticket #1425 (new enhancement)- No ability to resume in IRC file transfers". May 30, 2007. Retrieved December 30, 2008.
  37. "Ticket #4986 (closed enhancement: wontfix) - automatic chat input field resizing should be optional, regression from 2.3". March 1, 2008. Retrieved March 8, 2008.
  38. Adams, Paul (April 22, 2008). "In Response to User Demand, Pidgin Forks". Archived from the original on May 19, 2008.
  39. Malda, Rob (April 30, 2008). "Pidgin Controversy Triggers Fork". Slashdot.
  40. "#1325: add option to hide groups". Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  41. Greenberg, Andy (October 31, 2015). "Tor Just Launched the Easiest App Yet for Anonymous, Encrypted IM". WIRED. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  42. "meebo from the backside". July 15, 2008. Archived from the original on August 19, 2008. Retrieved October 3, 2008.
  43. "Tubes". Archived from the original on August 24, 2014. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  44. "Telepathy Wiki - Components". Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  45. "Instantbird:FAQ - Instantbird Wiki". February 10, 2011. Archived from the original on May 28, 2013. Retrieved October 11, 2012.