Instant Messaging

I keep hearing about Instant Messaging. What is it?

An Instant Messenger is a computer application which allows instant text communication between two or more people through a network such as the Internet.
It differs from e-mail in that conversations happen in realtime. Also, most services convey an “online status” between users, such as if a contact is actively using the computer.

Generally, both parties in the conversation see each line of text right after it is typed (line-by-line), making it more like a telephone conversation than exchanging letters. Instant messaging applications may also include the ability to post an away message, the equivalent of the message on a telephone answering machine.

ICQ was the first general instant messenger introduced to the internet in November 1996. After its introduction a number of variations of Instant Messaging have arisen in parallel in many places, and each application has its own protocols. This has led to users running many instant messaging applications simultaneously to be available on several networks (if this is you, see this week’s download).

Why Use It?

* Fast: Instant messages (IMs) appear on the recipient’s screen as soon as you send them.

* Free: Most services are completely free.

* Attention-Getting: IMs pop up on your screen over the rest of your open files. It can be a great way of catching someone’s attention while they’re on the phone or in a meeting or there is no time to wait for them to open their e-mail or check their voicemail. You can, however, set most services to minimize messages so they alert you they’ve arrived but don’t override your screen.

*Send quick questions/answers without walking to another person’s office or having to call them (save money on long-distance phone bills).

* Group Chats: Talk to more than one person at a time. You can also have voice conversations and video with some IM clients.

Using an Instant Messenger is easy:

1. Register and become an Instant Messenger user. If you have an AOL, MSN/Hotmail, or Yahoo email account you can use your current user name and password to log on.
2. Download and install the Instant Messenger software.
3. Open the Instant Messenger program and sign on to the service.
4. Set up your Buddy List by adding the screen names of your business associates, friends, and family.
5. Now you’re ready to use Instant Messenger!


The most popular instant messenger programs



(“I Seek You”) A conferencing program for the Internet from Mirabilis, Tel Aviv, Israel. It provides interactive chat, e-mail, file transfer, greeting cards and can alert you when someone on your predefined list has also come online. The chat rooms and alerts are managed by the Mirabilis servers. In 1998, Mirabilis and ICQ were acquired by AOL. In June 2004 ICQ celebrated its 300 millionth download from where it remained the number 1 most popular download for 7 consecutive years.


MSN Messenger

MSN Messenger is an instant messaging client for Windows and Mac OS computers (officially, but can be run on virtually any computer with an Internet connection), aimed mainly at home users. This instant messenger is already installed on your computer if you use Outlook Express for your email. The business oriented client, which also uses Microsoft’s .NET Messenger Service is called Windows Messenger.

Users require a Microsoft Passport to connect to the service. The major use of the software is for instant messaging. Messages can be enlivened with graphical emoticons. Other features, which now come as standard, include voice conversations, support for webcams, transferring files and built in multi-user games such as Patience.

Version 6 emphasized the ability to customize the software with personalized backgrounds, emoticons and display pictures. There is also a large community of third-party developers who have created add-ons to extend the capabilities of the program.


Yahoo! Messenger

Yahoo! Messenger is a popular instant messaging client provided by Yahoo!. It is provided free of charge and can be downloaded and used with a generic “Yahoo! ID” which also allows access to other Yahoo! services, such as Yahoo! Mail, where users can be automatically notified when they receive new email. If you already have a Yahoo! email address then just use your user name and password after downloading.

In addition to instant messaging features and “profiles” similar to those offered by ICQ and AIM, it includes webcam and voice chat applications which allows two or more people to converse over the Internet—two features that have made it very popular among Internet users. It also offers some features such as IMVironments and Custom Status Messages.


AOL Instant Messenger

Probably the most popular instant messenger program is AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). This program is free and is already installed on many computers that you buy. Your personal Buddy List shows you which of your business associates, friends, and family are online right now. Other features: transferring files and play games.

Trillian (this week’s download) is a great way to tie all t
he popular IM programs together into one interface.

Also, many mobile phones now have text messaging that can send messages to users of the above services.

I hope you find the world of Instant Messaging fun and useful.

~ Aadia Ovaska

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