Kool IM is a solid web-based instant-messaging client with no fancy trappings. Its reliable performance and nice choice of services make this alpha version well worth a look.

Kool IM's home page offers direct links to the most popular IM services. You can easily sign on to AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, and ICQ using your existing screen names and passwords.

Kool IM also connects to Jabber and Sametime, but doesn't link to these services from the home page. You can sign on to multiple services at once, and you can choose between an embedded and a pop-up version of Kool IM. The embedded version shows your buddy list and messages as windows tied to a web page, while the pop-up version displays them as pop-up windows that you can move around your screen.

Although its interface is relatively clean, Kool IM includes more adverts on its home page and in its message windows than many competing services do on theirs. The adverts on the home page don't intrude on the information presented there, however. The ads in the messages are text-based and occupy a box at the bottom of the window. In addition, when you send your first message, Kool IM notifies your recipient that you're using its service.

Once you get connected, the buddy list displays in the pop-up version and in the embedded version look very similar. If you connect to more than one IM service, you'll see your buddies grouped according to service. You can choose to display all of your buddies or just the ones who are online.

You can also add and delete buddies from your list, or log in to a service that you are not currently connected to. One nice touch: if your buddy has set an away message, you can see the text in your buddy list window without having to mouse over the contact's name or right-click to get the info.

Web-based IM service reviews: Meebo, Kool IM, Imhaha, RadiusIM