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15 Best Free and Open Source Instant Messaging Clients

Instant messaging (IM) is a form of real-time communication between two or more individuals based on typed text. The text is conveyed via devices connected over a network such as the Internet.

There are so many different instant messaging clients available, some software supports multiple protocols, others confine themselves to supporting a single protocol only.

This chart provides our recommendations. We only feature open source software here.

Best Free and Open Source Instant Messaging Tools

To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 15 high quality open source Linux IM clients. Hopefully, there will be something of interest here for anyone who wants to converse with their family, friends, colleagues, and clients.

An increasing number of instant messaging clients use Electron, a framework for creating native applications with web technologies such as JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Signal, Franz, Wire, and Rambox (as well as Discord) all deploy this framework.

Instant Messaging Tools
GajimClient for the Jabber/XMPP protocol using the GTK+ toolkit
SignalFast, simple, secure instant messaging
qToxChat. voice, video, and file transfer using the encrypted peer-to-peer Tox protocol
PsiMulti-platform and standards-based instant messaging client
ElementMatrix client with an emphasis on performance and usability
PidginGraphical multi-protocol instant messaging client
KopeteAdvanced multi-protocol instant messaging and chat application
NeoChatKDE matrix client
FractalGNOME matrix client
µToxLightweight and fluffy Tox client
FranzMessaging app for WhatsApp, Slack, Telegram, Facebook Messenger and more
RamboxMessaging and emailing app
JamiUniversal communication platform
JitsiInnovative open source voice, video conferencing, and instant messaging
WireEnd-to-end encrypted collaboration software

There are many other clients available for Matrix, Tox, XMPP (graphical), XMPP (web-based), and XMPP (console).


While we are strong proponents of open source software, it’s only fair to also recommend no-charge closed source software provided it’s sufficiently high quality. And the applications below are certainly highly respected software with huge user bases.

Telegram’s client-side code is open-source software, whereas its server-side code is closed-source and proprietary.

While Discord is an extremely popular VoIP chat tool among the gaming community, it’s instant messaging functionality is particularly impressive. Discord uses Markdown, a simple plain text formatting system that helps you make sentences stand out. Discord also supports code blocks.

Skype revolutionized the communications world with its supreme internet telephony / instant messaging / videoconferencing functionality. There’s a lot of animosity towards Microsoft, in part because they did not embrace an open source model for Windows, but more because of their predatory tactics. But the fact that Skype is powered entirely by Microsoft-operated supernodes doesn’t mean it should be excluded from this group test.

No-Charge Instant Messaging Tools
TelegramCloud-based instant messaging and voice over IP service
DiscordA hugely popular all-in-one voice and text chat - not only for gamers
SkypeMake free phone calls and communicate with good instant messaging support

The massively popular messaging app WhatsApp surprisingly doesn’t provide a native desktop client for Linux although a web version is available.


Read our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. The collection covers all categories of software.

The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk. There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.
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