Defending the Duck

In the previous entry about the Adium icon, we had a person anonymously add this comment, which I would like to address:

2. It is not obvious ( What does a duck have to do with messaging?

Actually, Adiumy (the nickname given to the icon) is a messenger bird, specifically here is the definition you should look at:

1. One who bears a message; the bearer of a verbal or written communication, notice, or invitation, from one person to another, or to a public body; specifically, an office servant who bears messages.

I’d say this has a lot to do with with messaging. As to the other point this poster made:

1. It reflects poorly on the application as something polished. I know plenty of people who have downloaded adium, seen the icon and trashed the program immediately figuring that no polished app would have such a silly icon.

Honestly, if they can’t get over the icon then I don’t know what to tell you. For instance, with 1.0 we’ll have (and these are from the changelog, which will be posted on sites all around):

Consulted the Vorlon
Added a contextual menu to make sandwiches tastier.
Added more popcorn to the general preferences.
Given away a rather awesome french toast recipe (passed down through hundreds of generations, guard it with your life!)

Given all of these things (and there’s a lot more), you have to wonder what kind of wackiness the Adium Group is doing. Well, to be honest, we’re having fun. We all love Adiumy, we know that he’s a messenger bird, and he’s a mascot as well. He’s very well recognized, and you can pick him out on your dock, which adds to usability for people with vision problems.

We’ve also had a lot of very talented people make some very different types of dock icons, all based on Adiumy. There were so many that I was able to make a very large desktop background (modified from someone elses) that encompassed some of the birds.

You have to realize something. We’re having fun, we’re doing this for free, and that fun rubs off. Developers continue on the Adium Project long after their initial goals have been reached because they’re having fun doing it.

Two more points and I’m done. If you are complaining that a duck does not mean anything to Adium, you need to look at the names for Adium prior to Adium X:

  1. Adium
  2. Adium CK
  3. Cocaim

Look at that second one. It’s actually “AIM DUCK” mashed together.

Last point, I promise. Nobody has ever attempted to show us any alternative. So even if we did want to move away from Adiumy, nobody has formally presented us with an alternative. Given that Adam Betts has updated the duck, and it looks way better, I’d say it’d be rather tough to convince us. But nobody has ever tried to that I can remember (been with the project what, 2, 3 years?). Without someone stepping up to present us with an alternative, we have no choice but to continue to use Adiumy.


  1. And really, considering that this is far from the first open-source project to take on an animal mascot, I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with it.

  2. The Adium duck is awsome. I don’t want to see that change.

  3. someone that trashes an app because of the icon would anyway trash it because of the menu names, because of the layout, because of the toolbars, because of [continue long list of meaningless stuff]

    honestly i was attracted by the duck. it makes the app look nice

  4. The developers of Adium are a credit to the Apple programmers in this world.

    I wish the worst on those of you who would attempt to dissuade a great bunch of people from developing something that not only benefits a lot of us mac users, but is also something they thoroughly enjoy creating.

    Grow up and buy a windows-based PC if you’re going to be that simple-minded about an artistic icon.

  5. The adium duck is the coolest thing ever. it so so freakin awesome its not even funny. Come on, don’t diss the duck! We love the duck!


  6. I have to say, I really didn’t appreciate the duck at first (going as far as to change my icon to iChat’s), but have come to love it. Don’t take it away for anything!

  7. Christopher, I agree with you line by line, word by word.
    Adiumy is one of the coolest ideas of this wonderful app.

  8. All hail The Duck!

    Long Live The Duck!


    Can I have a cookie?

  9. When will out a new version of Adium?

  10. The comments and the orignal blog this was based on brings to mind the Apple ad – PC guy/Mac guy talking about vacation pictures. Boring PC, fun Mac.

    Love the duck, keep the duck!

    You guys rock!

    sign me, 50-something Mac fan and daily user of Adium

  11. Consulting the Vorlon is always a good idea. Well, at least it was until they started destroying planets, too.

    I must be the only one who got the B5 reference.

    Oh, and yay duck!

  12. If this is the most important to discuss right now on Adium, I have a big smile on my face

    There are so much more important thinks to do.

    Lets go back to work….

  13. As you have said before you have gotten a lot of flack throughout the years about the duck. Some love it, Some hate it.

    Me personally, I am not fond about the duck and I use the Milk dock icons.

    But this is your baby, a open source project built from the ground up, and the duck is the symbol you chose. So roll with it. Too many people worry about the little things and allow something like a lame icon act as an obstacle to truely enjoy a kick-ass product. Adium is the best there is. Even tho i think the duck looks goofy I say keep it, and all the complainers should re-evaluate whats important in their messaging experience.

    In some cases marketing an image in important. In this case I dont beleive it is. People who have a mac use adium because its the best.


  14. Hmm…. the duck isn’t polished enough… so they trashed the app…
    Extremely good judgement. Obviously the icon is the core of any app- it is a detailed, thorough assessment of a program’s features and performance.
    And since only the most sagacious of users would know to evaluate an application in this manner, I’d suggest to those users that a switch to Windows is in order.
    Don’t even bother with Adium… or OS X for that matter… there’s too many things that can’t be customized to suit the arbitrary preferences a discerning customer might have.

    And just think, then you can use Trillian! And boy, oh boy… talk about one polished looking app… =D


  15. To be honest, I hate the duck, but the quality of the program and the option to actually change the duck to something else is why I still love adium.

    Coding is one thing that is always going to be great about open source, it only seems to get better as the program matures, but design does not lend itself well to too many cooks in the kitchen. That’s why it’s so wonderful to have so many individual GUI contributors to this project. If you don’t like it, the program is flexible enough and the community is large enough to accomodate your specific tastes.

    If the icon were open to discussion, I would ask that if a bird has to be used, why was a duck chosen instead of something like a passenger pigeon?

  16. Doh!

    That should have read homing pigeon.

  17. I love the duck.
    How many Vorlons does it take to change a light-bulb?

  18. How many, anonymous?

  19. I love the duck. So do my far-from-geeky friends with Macs.

  20. I was ambivalent toward the duck. So I really liked the ability to change the icon. But as I’ve come to identify with the Adium community, I’ve decided to switch back to the duck. It identifies you as a smart IMer. It’s like a status symbol: “You don’t have a duck in your dock? Oh, well, a chat bubble is nice too, I guess…”

  21. The old Duckn without any inner lightning was nicer, this new one looks it had esthetical surgery… Well, to me… And it’s not a compliment in my mouth… Anyway, Adium is the very best messenging App for osx, love it. Keep it up!

  22. Comparing the examples listed in the quoted article, I noticed two things:

    1. Both Firefox’ and Shiira’s icons, listed in the same category as Adium’s, actually tell something about the programs’ function (The Globe symbolizes the Internet and the wave symbolizes surfing)

    2. Quicktime’s icon, on the other hand, tells almost nothing about the program’s function (media player and framework. Yes, that has something to do with time, but that’s all there is to the “connection”). In fact, I think the QT name is no more than a trademark now.

    3. What’s wrong with using a trademark/cute symbol as an application’s icon? Raskin’s The Humane Interface is not meant to be a decree, but rather one man’s vision of a usable GUI.

  23. Comparing the examples listed in the quoted article, I noticed two things:

    1. Both Firefox’ and Shiira’s icons, listed in the same category as Adium’s, actually tell something about the programs’ function (The Globe symbolizes the Internet and the wave symbolizes surfing)

    2. Quicktime’s icon, on the other hand, tells almost nothing about the program’s function (media player and framework. Yes, that has something to do with time, but that’s all there is to the “connection”). In fact, I think the QT name is no more than a trademark now.

    3. What’s wrong with using a trademark/cute symbol as an application’s icon? Raskin’s The Humane Interface is not meant to be a decree, but rather one man’s vision of a usable GUI.

  24. I fully admit that I wrote that post… I am not critiquing Adium because it is a great app. No question.

    However to respond:
    A duck of any sort has no meaning of message, I am sorry. A carrier pigeon with a little note attached to its leg might have some sort of relevance, but I guarantee you can go ahead and pull 10 people off the street and ask them what the Adium icon means and none of them will guess messaging. The mail icon is obvious. The iTunes icon obviously has something to do with music.

    As for people deleting the app because of the icon, it is not people “getting over” the icon, it is people “getting PAST” the icon to actually bother with the app. There are a lot of apps out there and a whimsical icon is the first sign that an app may not be worth my time and often serves as a quick proxy evaluation before spending an hour playing around with an application before deciding that the app is no good.

    I have no doubt that the developers want to have fun and the duck is part of the Adium heritage. I am even sure many of you have your computer quacking at you when you have messages arrive. What I would suggest is either make the duck a theme pack, or maybe just the standard on the beta… It is your application, and a damned fine one.

    As for alternatives, I went to adiumxtras, put on the iBubble icon, and haven’t really looked back.

  25. been a diehard adium user since 1.0, and used to post ont he boards a lot, but i do agree that i wish it wasn’t this duck. even if it was a more professional looking duck, that would lend the project a touch more class.

  26. Why does it matter if it’s a duck, a dog, or a horse (which would make about as much sense as a duck)? First of all, it’s the project’s development team’s right to pick what they want. Adiumy is integral to Adium now. If you wanted to complain aobut it, you should’ve done so some 3 years ago when they would’ve been more willing to change. Besides, how can you not like Adiumy, especially all the variants you can find. The PowerBooks, the iMacs, I mean seriously. What’s not to love?

  27. It’s been said, but one of the things I really like about Adium is that it’s highly customizable. You don’t like the duck? Download something different in Xtras. Or make your own.

    What does a fox wrapped around a planet have to do with web browsing? And why is his tail on fire? Doesn’t keep me from using my favorite web browser. If people can’t see past a “silly icon” then too bad for them.

  28. So basically all the support for the duck seems to be condensed down to three things:

    1. It has always been part of Adium- well that certainly does not mean it has any meaning or resonance for anyone else.

    2. krystyn and some others basically say f* off if you don’t like it. This combines well with the developers doing what they want. That is all good and fine, but then don’t bother soliciting comments or defending, just say it is a duck by fiat (which is what the end result seems to be)

    3. other applications have non-communicative icons- but if you look at firefox which is not the best icon in the world anyway, you can see the firefox kind of shooting around the world, and globes have definitely become the metaphor for the web, so at least there is something there.

  29. If you delete an application sight unseen because of its icon, you’re a dipshit…

    I personally love the duck. In a world where we perpetually take ourselves far too seriously, the last thing I want is a “more professional” icon for Adium. Besides, I can think of very few icons that are more “iconic”! It’s a funny duck! Everybody loves a funny duck!

  30. the duck is cool!

  31. I really love that duck – and everyone I know loves it, too!

  32. Has everybody forgotten the penguin?!?

  33. the duck is cool.

    not as cool as sa pheonix, however.

  34. I just wanted to say that I love the icon, and I love Adium. I want to thank you guys for making such a wonderful program, and I look forward to using new versions in the future.

  35. Well, I think I just lost a huge amount of money…

    I deleted Photoshop, FireWorks, Illustrator and dreamweaver… The Icon had nothing to do with the app…

    By the way, Adium rocks

  36. Adiumy forever! Changing it would be like Apple switching to Pear

  37. Haha, Ok..Stop developing the project RIGHT NOW cause it uses a duck…
    Nah I don’t mind the duck, and Love the App!


    Not to suggest that Adium is a joke, but it’s not like you guys ae developing a realtime OS for use in the medical industry. Have a sense of humour and enjoy life a little. A cute duck that makes odd noises when you recieve messages is a pretty good icon for what is essentially a time-waster app. Want to procrastinate? Play with the duck.

  39. I too love the duck! The duck IS adium and vice versa..

  40. Like someone else said, “Adium Rocks! Changing it would be like Apple changing to pear” [or Intel for that matter]

    Keep the Duck, lose the “Anonymous” fun-less, kill-joy, complainer. If someone doesn’t like the duck without checking out the app, then…. well, then they probably wouldn’t like (or “get”) your French Toast Recipe either.

    BTW, great French Toast recipe. Michael’s on North and Clark in Chicago daaaaamn… especially at 3:00 AM!

    Keep on keepin’ on.

  41. The duck stays. Like art, you will never please everyone and trying to please everyone usually ends up pleasing no one. If you don’t like the duck then there are plenty of ways to change it yourself.

    For me: the duck is fun and makes a change from the drab icons you see in some other application. I am a geek and I love it 🙂

  42. i dont care. i always thought of it as a duck, and to me it stays a duck.

  43. It’s an icon. It doesn’t have to scream what the application does, it just has be recognizable so that it can be associated with the application. Look at the logos of major corporations — at least half of them have nothing to do with what the company does. The duck is distinctive, it looks professionally made, and it has an existing association with the application, all of which make it work very well.

  44. The icon is professionaly designed so I really don’t care if it’s a duck or a frog (Azureus) or whatever – I think if you are willing to delete a useful app because of the icon then you can just go right ahead, we don’t need your “kind” here 🙂

    keep up the great work!

  45. Yeah, the person who slammed your icon as being “unprofessional” seriously needs to get over themselves. Arrogant fool, you are worthy of working only for Microsoft.

  46. Again, the duck rocks. It is the coolest icon I have on my dock, and
    I love how it gives information (the eyes open with when the app does)
    and holding plackards for the people who are IM’ing..

    Segimos con el Pato!


  47. Adiumy makes me laugh – hard. Keep it!

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