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Simkl and IM History: Two services that spy on your IM conversations (for you)

Two new IM-logging services are heating things up.

The move to archive nearly everything we do online has been spearheaded mainly by Google in both Gmail as well as Google Web history. The same thing is happening in the chat space with Meebo and Google Talk, as well as desktop chat clients that have had integrated chat logging for years now. The one thing missing has been a way to take those locally saved conversations and make them available for search and reading while away from your home machine. IM History and Simkl are two companies have jumped on the task in an attempt to let people archive everything they've talked about, as long as they're willing to trust their log-in information to a third party. Like financial service Mint, that trust is rewarded with tools that let you get more out of each service than originally intended.

Between the two, IM History released first, and at the moment is the only one of the two that doesn't require an invitation to use. The service went 1.0 last week and supports six popular chat protocols, as well as desktop chat application Trillian. Windows users install a small app that sits on the taskbar and monitors any or all of the supported chat programs that have been setup to get cached. There's also a version for Linux users that works with the Pidgin multiclient chat application. Both versions quietly record your conversations and send them to a private server where you can come back and view them while away from the home machine.

The other new app is Simkl, which is still in private beta and has a nearly identical feature set to IM History, although Simkl takes a slightly different approach by forgoing software in place of having users manually route their messages through a proxy server. This takes a little more work on the part of the user, but the payoff is not having to install an application that may lose its efficacy on applications as they get updated. The service also provides how-to's that let you mindlessly set up each client.

The draw of both of these services is that once you've got them configured on one or more of your machines, it'll track your chats and make them available via separate gateway sites. IM History has the added benefit of letting you access that same information from the desktop application when you double-click the icon. It's a nice touch.

Between the two I'm partial to IM History because I prefer its more robust history browser. But I'm honestly too wary of the idea, no matter how good the execution is because of the potential security problems of having your IM logs sitting on someone else's servers. CNET and many other companies don't allow chat logging, and before using either of these solutions in the workplace you should check with your IT department.

Since Simkl is still in private beta for the time being, the folks there were nice enough to hook up Webware readers with some invites. There are 500 available, and to use them, just use "Webware" (no quotation marks) in as the invitation code when signing up.