I use two instant messaging programs, MSN and Pidgin. MSN is more modern with a lot of added extra bits, including a Webcam facility and VoIP. Pidgin is a simpler program that is also free, but does not have the webcam or VoIP extras. It does however allow you to use multiple e-mail accounts instead of msns one hotmail account. For VoIP on it's own, i use two programs, TeamSpeak and Ventrillo. Their main purpose is for chatting while playing games online (such as Battlefield 2). They can however be used to just talk to each other. The software is free, but you have to buy a server to host. Skype is the most well known VoIP provider, i personally don't know much about it, but you can make calls from computer to computer or from computer to a telephone. My advice would be to find out some more about Skype, seeing as that could be your best option. Otherwise MSN is a worthy alternative.