Gaim on for visiting chat heaven
Instant messaging interoperability could soon become a reality, thanks to the announcement last week by AOL, Yahoo! and MSN that they would soon allow users to connect with and chat to one another.
The trouble is, the offer is only open to businesses.
Regular spods on the street can also access the new digital Babel, but only if they are prepared to shell out for Microsoft's Live Communications Server 2005. The software is not due for release until the end of the year, so prices are not yet available, but you can bet it will cost a bit more than a new phone.
I shall be sticking with Gaim. It is free in the sense of beer and speech, it does not carry ads and you do not have to put up with cutesy backgrounds or cringe-inducing photographs of the people you chat to.
It also supports outlaw networks such as Jabber and IRC, which the big three do not. On top of all that, it runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS and Qtopia, with more platform support inevitable.
So there is no reason to wait and invest in an expensive new server. If you want to get with the oncoming digital revolution, visit gaim.sourceforge.net and download your way to chat heaven.
Many Chinese Net users remember when parts of the Usenet turned into flame-war battle zones between people who posted in Chinese and Americans who believed such behaviour to be beyond all sense and reason.
It seems the old wars never end, they just change borders. Today's linguistic flame wars are breaking out on Google's social networking site, Orkut. As it is with many social networks, the only way on to Orkut is by invitation. So if you come from a particularly sociable group, you will have more chance of joining in.
Reuters last week noticed that Orkut had been stormed by Brazilians. The result is a linguistic clash with the second-largest user group, the Americans. All other nationalities are so far behind as to be barely worth mentioning.
Orkut apparently has more than 769,000 members - still far behind Friendster or Tickle, but not bad for a site that has only been alive for seven months. About 22 per cent of the users are from the United States, while 43 per cent are Brazilians.
English is the native language in only three of the top 10 countries by number of users - Britain, Canada and the United States. Even if you add India to the mix, English still makes up less than 30 per cent. In the four days after Reuters published its report, Brazilians increased their lead by 2 per cent while US users dropped by the same.
While some English-speaking members have been complaining that their communities are being hijacked by Portuguese speakers, the problem is not language but the nature of social networks.
Each network has gradually taken on its own personality.
So, while Friendster appeals to trendy young things, LinkedIn has connected legions of professionals and Orkut has become Brazil's virtual homeland. If some monoglots are feeling marginalised, they should look in our direction.
Chinese users are nowhere to be seen, while a search for Hong Kong users yesterday yielded just 572 results.
So, Backspace has decided to redress the balance. If you would like to help boost the English or Chinese-speaking population on Orkut, just drop us a line.
This column may only have two weeks left to run under its current author, but we promise to send an Orkut invitation to anyone who sends a request to email@example.com.
Finally, we just have space for a quick Tuesday Timewaster (if that's not an oxymoron). Kewlbox.com has released Badaboom - a hugely addictive and totally pointless game. No strategy, no shooting, all that is needed is the ability to click your mouse on coloured balls.
Gripes, moans or complaints? Send all your secrets to firstname.lastname@example.org