Empathy IM Review

Multi-protocol IM client for Linux

Phone and Internet Call
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Empathy is an instant messaging client for the Linux environment, based on the Gnome interface. Empathy IM is a multi-protocol IM that allows voice and video chat over many protocols, including Facebook IM, MSN, Google Talk, and some others. Empathy is a VoIP application that allows the use of SIP for voice calls and XMPP for file transfers. It is not as rich in features as competitors like Pidgin but in Linux, it is not really a question of competition, as everything is free and for many people, it depends on what you get as default IM client on the Linux distribution you get. Unlike Pidgin, Empathy has no version for Windows or Mac.


  • Supports many chat and IM protocols
  • Is primarily a VoIP application that supports SIP
  • Geolocation feature allows location of buddies on a map
  • Is light on resources


  • Has basic features, but isn’t very rich
  • No support for other operating systems (Windows and Mac)


French-made Empathy instant messaging client is deployed along with some Linux distributions with the Gnome interface. In recent distributions, Pidgin seems to stand as a better alternative. You can download Empathy if it is not bundled with your Linux installation. The download file is light for a VoIP app for voice and video — around 3 MB. It also runs very light on resources.

Empathy gets its worth in being a multi-protocol client. It supports Facebook chat, Yahoo!, AIM, Jabber, Google Talk, XMPP, IRC, ICQ, SIP (of course), MSN, and Bonjour. For Skype, you will want to look for another multi-protocol client.

An interesting feature with Empathy is Geolocation, which allows you to publish your location and see the locations of your contacts on a map. This is not an essential feature, nor it is important, as seeing Beijing on a map and mapping the location in your mind doesn’t make much difference in your communication, but it is quite interesting and provides a great experience.

The interface is very basic, giving reminiscence of old IRC days. Despite this lean structure, the app is fast and robust. The settings panel is very basic, with a left side giving a list of the platforms to which you are connected and on the right their settings like SSL and encryption. 

Empathy offers basic features. The essential is there, with good SIP support, allowing you to configure the client with any SIP service. Also, it offers native voice and video communication through VoIP. If you are happy with that, then Empathy is a good communication tool on your Linux. Empathy is however limited to these basics, and when you see what’s there in other clients of the same kind, you might be tempted to look around, at Pidgin for example.