My Bug Is Pidgin’s Feature

Today while trolling around on Slashdot I came across this open-source development flareup tidbit:

Slashdot | Pidgin Controversy Triggers Fork
“Pidgin, the premier multi-protocol instant messaging client, has been forked. This is the result of a heated, emotional, and very interesting debate over a controversial new feature: As of version 2.4, the ability to manually resize the text input area has been removed; instead, it automatically resizes depending on how much is typed. It turns out that this feature, along with the uncompromising unwillingness of the developers to provide an option to turn it off, annoys the bejesus of very many users.

Last week or so, I’d read about this Pidgin fork, somewhat lamely named Funpidgin, and I even visited the project’s Web site to take a peek. I skimmed over the project page, didn’t understand the point of the fork, chalked it up to wacky open-source developer intransigence and moved on.

As it turns out, I ran into Pidgin’s new No-Input-Box-Resizing-for-You “feature” a few weeks ago while testing Ubuntu and Fedora. I was annoyed that I couldn’t resize the input box as I’m wont to do in Pidgin, thought it was an obvious bug and ignored it, expecting that the issue would be fixed by the time that Ubuntu 8.04 and Fedora 9 shipped.

The Pidgin developers should listen to their users, plenty of whom have weighed in against the pointless resize-restriction. As for me, it’s been a little while now since I’ve used Pidgin regularly, since I’ve taken to instant messaging through Gmail.

Gmail’s IM interface isn’t great–there’s no per-buddy or per-group status-setting, it limits me to Jabber or AIM networks, and, just like Pidgin, it won’t let me resize my input box. Unlike Pidgin, however, my chat logs get to live in the cloud, where they’re accessible (and searchable) from wherever I am. Lately, I’ve prized that convenience over the customization options that a fat IM client affords.

Pidgin’s newest “feature” tips the fat vs. thin calculus further in Gmail’s favor.