This is similar to an earlier question asking for an HIG-compliant IRC client recommendation.

There's was some talk about an elementary OS-specific chat client back in 2012 but nothing seems to have come of it.

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A dedicated chat app was recently discussed as a prominent wishlist request, but there isn't any such app in full development beyond prototypes as of now. The chat project has an open bounty of $550 even though it was closed in May, which brings us to the feature request's closure:

I'm going to close this issue because the circumstances of the world have changed. It's no longer desirable to build a messenger app in this way.

There is also the open question of which instant messaging protocol(s) such a dedicated "chat" app would use (usually XMPP is too small a feature set). As mentioned in the podcast, many protocols have closed their developer interfaces. They either provide their own app experience or are uninterested in developers creating their own, and there are so many competing protocols that users tend to follow the precedent of those in their social circle. Empathy is likely as close as we're getting for now.

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