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Keep In Touch

Novell's Instantme 2.0

An instant messaging application can't be everything to everyone-or can it? Instantme 2.0, the latest free download of the Novell (www.novell.com) IM program, is certainly trying to be. First developed as an extension of the company's digitalme tool, instantme has evolved to offer a myriad of ways for businesspeople to communicate.

Digitalme is an online community where users can securely store their contact information. Using what the company calls "meCards," you can store different information for different audiences. For instance, you can create a work meCard, a friend meCard and a family meCard to convey different information to different audiences. To extend this service, Novell created its instantme, an instant messaging program that allows digitalme users to stay in touch with one another.

Instantme works with AOL's Instant Messaging application, allowing all of its users to communicate directly with the more than 45 million users of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)-not a bad selling point. And, if you're accustomed to AIM's rather bland interface, instantme will pleasantly surprise you. Its blue, three-dimensional interface is refreshing, and it conveniently imports your AIM buddy list.

When you sign on, instantme asks you what personality you feel like showing. This is where the integration with digitalme comes into play. You select one of the meCards you've created (which is a simple process, taking only a few minutes). Each meCard works as a separate screen name, so if you sign on with your friend meCard, you don't have to worry about being bombarded with messages from your customers.

Instantme 2.0 has also worked to make instant messaging more secure. You can choose to encrypt your message, and you can require your recipient to prove his or her identity through the use of a digital certificate.

You can also prove your own identity the same way. Once a digital certificate is obtained from one of the companies that provide these (such as RSA, entrust or VeriSign), you can easily import it into instantme, which guides you through the process.

And if all that isn't enough, instantme 2.0 has added both audio- and video-conferencing to its list of features, through a partnership with CUseeMe Networks. This functionality works with a simple click of an icon, although the video and audio quality are not the best.

Instantme offers plenty of helpful communication tools, but if you just need the basics, it could be too much. If you're seeking a secure way to communicate, however, this could be your answer.


Liane Gouthro, a former technology reporter at PCWorld.com, freelances from her home in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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This article was originally published in the December 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Keep In Touch.

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