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Empathy (software)

Original author(s) Xavier Claessens
Developer(s) Guillaume Desmottes, Xavier Claessens
Stable release 3.14.2 (November 13, 2014 (2014-11-13)) [1]
Preview release 3.15.1 (October 30, 2014 (2014-10-30)) [2]
Written in C
Operating system BSD, Linux, Other Unix-like
Available in Multilingual
Type Instant messaging client
License GNU GPL
Website /Empathy/

Empathy is an instant messaging (IM) and voice over IP (VoIP) client which supports text, voice, video, file transfers, and inter-application communication over various IM protocols.

Empathy was created by forking the Gossip project started by Michael Hallendal, Richard Hult and later maintained by Martyn Russell. It was forked because there were disagreements amongst contributors about the backend at the time. It was initially completely XMPP based (similar to Google Talk and Facebook's chat implementations), but others wanted it to use the Telepathy stack. This led to the forking and new name Empathy.

Empathy also provides a collection of re-usable graphical user interface widgets for developing instant messaging clients[3] for the GNOME desktop. It is written as extension to the Telepathy framework, for connecting to different instant messaging networks with a unified user interface.

Empathy has been included in the GNOME desktop since version 2.24.[4][5] In Ubuntu since release 9.10 (Karmic Koala) and Fedora since release 12 (Constantine), it has replaced Pidgin as their default messenger.


  • Features 1
  • Reception 2
  • Security issues 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Empathy natively supports protocols, implemented in telepathy framework: XMPP (including configuration for Facebook IM, Google Talk, though Gizmo5, LiveJournal Talk, Nokia Ovi and other Jabber servers also supported), salut link-local XMPP for local network peer discovery, MSNP (to Microsoft Messenger service as used by MSN Messenger or Windows Live Messenger), IRC and SIP. Additional protocols are supported with libpurple plug-in: OSCAR (AIM/ICQ/MobileMe), Bonjour (Apple's implementation of Zeroconf), MySpaceIM, QQ, MXit, Novell GroupWise, YMSG, Gadu-Gadu, Lotus Sametime, SIMPLE, SILC, Zephyr.

Automatic features include auto away and extended away using gnome-screensaver, and auto re-connect using NetworkManager. One-on-one and group chats include smileys and spell checking. Conversation windows can be themed. Conversations can be logged, which can be viewed or searched, and prepended to new chats.

Additional features include:

  • Voice and video calls using SIP, MSNP and XMPP (including support for Google Talk voice calls)
  • File transfer for XMPP
  • Geolocation of contacts (can display contacts on a map)
  • Python bindings for Telepathy
  • Collaborative work using Tubes[6]
  • Desktop sharing (remote control)
  • Automatic configuration of Google Talk accounts (with GNOME Online Accounts)


Ryan Paul at Ars Technica wrote in March 2009, "Empathy's highly modular design, basic video chat capabilities, and excellent support for desktop integration are all major assets."[4] He stated that it had "improved", but it was "rough around the edges", noting that at the time it had not yet "been included in any major Linux distribution" citing an Ubuntu usability study.[4] In November, after Empathy replaced Pidgin (and Ekiga)[7] in Ubuntu 9.10, Ryan wrote, "Although Empathy has improved a lot over the past year, it's still not stable. It crashed quite a few times during my tests and exhibited a number of other minor bugs. It's adequate for basic chatting ...".[8] In his extended review of Ubuntu 9.10, Igor Ljubunčić was terse about the switch from Pidgin to Empathy: "Personally, I see no value in the change, especially since Empathy supports less networks."[9] Tom's Hardware reviewer Adam Overa referred to the switch to the "much less popular and compatible Empathy client", as "[p]robably the most controversial change in Ubuntu 9.10", noting that a "firestorm of debate has been raging over this topic among developers and users alike ever since the announcement to replace Pidgin was made ... " in 2009.[7]

In 2010 Empathy was listed as one of "5 open source VoIP softphones to watch" by Rodney Gedda of ComputerWorld magazine.[10]

Security issues

Unlike Pidgin and other clients with off-the-record messaging (OTR), Empathy lacks privacy and security facility through OTR support. Empathy's developers have stated that they refuse to implement IM encryption standards such as OTR.[11] Empathy therefore may not be suitable for usage in corporate or high security environments with mandatory encryption policies.

However, in May 2014 OTR support in Empathy was implemented,[12] although no stable release includes it.

See also


  1. ^ "GNOME 3.14.2 is out". GNOME mailing list. November 13, 2014. Retrieved November 13, 2014. 
  2. ^ Clasen, Matthias (October 30, 2014). "GNOME 3.15.1". gnome-devel-announce mailing list. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  3. ^ Ryan, Paul (25 August 2007). "Empathy toolkit simplifies instant messaging integration".  
  4. ^ a b c Paul, Ryan (20 March 2009). "Hands-on: GNOME 2.26 brings incremental improvements".  
  5. ^ "GNOME 2.24 Release Notes".  
  6. ^ "Telepathy Wiki - Tubes". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  7. ^ a b Overa, Adam (December 3, 2009). "What's New In 9.10?". Tom's Hardware. 
  8. ^ Ryan, Paul (November 18, 2009). "Good karma: an in-depth review of Ubuntu 9.10". 
  9. ^ Ljubunčić, Igor. "Ubuntu 9.10 - One step forward, two steps back". dedoimedo. 
  10. ^ Gedda, Rodney (20 November 2009). "5 open source VoIP softphones to watch".  
  11. ^ "Empathy/FAQ - GNOME Live!".  
  12. ^ "Bug 16891 - (OTR) Telepathy should support OTR encryption".  

External links

  • Official website
  • Ryan, Paul (28 September 2007). "GNOME 2.22 planning: Empathy messaging client and toolkit proposed for inclusion".  
  • Kissling, Kristian (26 September 2008). "Gnome Desktop Version 2.24 Released".  
  • Huber, Mathias (29 October 2009). "Ubuntu 9.10: Karmic Koala Complete".  
  • Ryan, Justin (23 April 2009). "Ubuntu Users Looking a Bit Jaunty Today".  
  • "Empathy: Chat online". Linux Format. January 2010. Issue 127. (subscription required)
  • LaCroix, Jeremy (29 September 2008). "New GNOME 2.24 is an incremental improvement".  
  • Vaughan-Nichols, Steven J. (16 December 2009). "Review: 3 top Linux distros go for different users".  
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