Thursday, November 5, 2009

Empathy IM Client for Ubuntu Sucks

Much as I'm loving Ubuntu 9.10 and greatly, greatly appreciate all the hard work the Ubuntu team puts into building what I consider to be the finest desktop OS in the world (I'm seriously in awe when I think of the work involved and the fantastic end result), I have to point out one major mistake that was made with this release: the decision to replace Pidgin with Empathy as the default IM client. There's a discussion about they whys behind the decision here, but it seems in this case abstract technical decisions won out of usability decisions, which in the end isn't good for anyone.

My major annoyance with Empathy is as follows. If someone IMs me, I receive a popup notification in the top right-hand corner of my screen. Great. If, however, I'm not looking at my screen when the notice pops up, the only way to know someone IMd me is to look at my contacts list for a blinking icon. Completely, utterly terrible usability. Pidgin pops up a new tab in my chat window when someone IMs me. That's as it should be. That's how IM works, folks. Do your homework and don't change paradigms that don't need changing. I shouldn't have to worry about scanning my contact list every time I step away from my computer to see if someone IMd me when I wasn't looking.

Yes, I know, I can change applications; I've already re-installed Pidgin, and my apologies to anyone whose IMs I didn't respond to for hours this week. But with such a major usability annoyance I can't fathom why the "better integration with the desktop environment" rationale would make Empathy the default IM client in Ubuntu.

So more than anything this is to ask "WHY?" and to beg the Ubuntu team to actually USE the programs they supply as defaults instead of making decisions solely for under the hood technical reasons. Users don't care about the integration blah blah, they care about knowing when someone IMs them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agree 100%.Plus, Empathy lacks the ability to block users, and the plug-ins just suck. Empathy doesn't even support IRC out of the box, you have to install another library.