Instant Messaging, also known as IM, is a method where two or more people can send fast real-time “text-based” communication on computers or a variety of other electronic devices over a network (usually the Internet). Currently in the marketplace, Instant Messaging is very widespread as it has become a popular form of communication at college, work and at home. Everyday millions of people use Instant Messaging as a form communication as our society is becoming more and more dependent on it. It also allows people to communicate internationally at real-time, which gives a new experience of interaction online rather than just purely sending e-mail. In todays fast past society, people are always looking for new ways to save time as people would often rather Instant Message than e-mail a co-worker or friend due to time and efficiency.
History of Instant Messaging
Although Instant Messaging is currently thought as utilizing such clients as AOL Instant Messenger, Google Chat, MSN, and Yahoo Chat, it originated in the 70s and 80s, which predates the Internet. Instant Messaging was originally conceptualized as a peer-to-peer protocol that was meant for users to communicate on a network of computers. Shortly after, in the early 80s, the idea of talker systems arose as people begun to log-in to private networks to communicate within a small community. Furthermore, the first primitive internet service Quantum Link was also born, which provided a text-based system called PETSCII on a modem, where people could message each other. In the late 80s, the application called Internet Relay Chat (IRC), developed as users were then able to talk to each other in channels as well as sending private messages to one another.
The New Age
The 1990’s marked an important decade where several Instant Messaging clients first arose. ICQ began in 1996 and was the first IM client to be used by a wide audience. Next, Quantum Leap evolved into America Online, which led to the development of the famous AIM in 1997. As a result of AIM, other companies began to follow suit by launching their own clients. Yahoo!, MSN, and later Google in 2005 launched their own Instant Messenger clients as companies realized that this was a hot, growing field that could add a lot of functionality to their e-mail clients with integration. Today, e-mail clients are almost always paired up with some form of instant messaging client as companies hope this will increase the usage and popularity of their e-mail clients.
In 2000, an application named Jabber, revolutionized the Instant Messaging world as users were able to utilize a single application that is a multi-protocol tool; which allowed a user to simultaneously chat with friends on various messengers. As a result, users no longer had to log into various messaging clients in order to contact friends from that specific client, which saved a lot time and hassle. Today, various other popular multi-protocol applications include Meebo, Trillian, and Pidgin.
Such web applications as Facebook have also realized the advantages of Instant Messaging as it recently redesigned its layout to have its chat system in a more prominent place. Previously, the chat feature was hidden into the lower status bar of Facebook and was not often used. Now, the chat status is located on left navigation page of the home page and users are able to see which of their best friends are online.
Not only has Instant Messaging taken storm within every day use, it also has been integrated into the workplace as employees rely on it heavily now. Such companies as Microsoft have created such products as Microsoft Office Communicator where it contains a wide range of functionality such as chatting, video conferencing, file sharing, and application sharing; while integrating with Microsoft Outlook. Instant Messaging has changed multiple work processes in the enterprise as people are able to accomplish tasks faster and more efficiently. In addition, employees are able to view the current statuses of their fellow co-workers to see if they are at their desk, rather than calling them or sending an e-mail to check. Finally, employees are also able to share documents more easily and able to collaborate on projects more efficiently across the globe.
As Instant Messaging continues to grow, more and more functionality is continuously being added to each application making it a very modular market. Furthermore, as more clients begin to develop, companies will continue to try to consolidate and integrate all the functionalities of various platforms into a central location. As the years continue to pass, Instant Messaging will continue to have a great online presence in the marketplace, but also will continue to develop on other electronic devices such as PDA’s and cell-phones.