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Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of
online chat Online chat may refer to any kind of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ar ...
allowing
real-time text Real-time text (RTT) is text Text may refer to: Written word * Text (literary theory) In literary theory, a text is any object that can be "read", whether this object is a work of literature, a street sign, an arrangement of buildings on a ci ...
transmission over the
Internet The Internet (or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a ''internetworking, network of networks'' that consist ...

Internet
or another
computer network A computer network is a set of computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operati ...
. Messages are typically transmitted between two or more parties, when each user inputs text and triggers a transmission to the recipient(s), who are all connected on a common network. It differs from
email upThe email_address.html"_;"title="at_sign,_a_part_of_every_SMTP_email_address">at_sign,_a_part_of_every_SMTP_email_address Electronic_mail_(email_or_e-mail)_is_a_method_of_exchanging_messages_("mail")_between_people_using_electronic_dev ...

email
in that conversations over instant messaging happen in real-time (hence "instant"). Most modern IM
applications Application may refer to: Mathematics and computing * Application software, computer software designed to help the user to perform specific tasks ** Application layer, an abstraction layer that specifies protocols and interface methods used in a co ...
(sometimes called "social messengers", "messaging apps" or "chat apps") use
push technology Push technology, or server push, is a style of Internet The Internet (Capitalization of Internet, or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between ...
and also add other features such as
emoji An emoji ( ; plural emoji or emojis) is a pictogram A pictogram, also called a pictogramme, pictograph, or simply picto, and in computer usage an icon An icon (from the Greek language, Greek 'image, resemblance') is a religious wor ...

emoji
s (or graphical
smiley A smiley, sometimes referred to as a smiley face, is a basic ideogram upright=1, Ideograms in the Church of the Visitation, Jerusalem. Five of the symbols are pictograms augmented with red bars representing the idea of "no" or "not allowed ...

smiley
s),
file transfer File transfer is the Transmission (telecommunications), transmission of a computer file through a communication channel from one computer system to another. Typically, file transfer is mediated by a communications protocol. In the history of compu ...
,
chatbots A chatbot or chatterbot is a software Software is a collection of instructions that tell a computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern comp ...
,
Voice over IP Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), also called IP telephony, is a method and group of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia Multimedia is a form of communication that ...
, or
video chat Videotelephony comprises the technologies for the reception and transmission of audio- video signals by users in different locations, for communication between people in real time.McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of EngineeringVideotelephony McG ...
capabilities. Instant messaging systems tend to facilitate connections between specified known users (often using a contact list also known as a "buddy list" or "friend list"), and can be standalone applications or integrated into e.g. a wider
social media Social media are interactive technologies that facilitate the creation Creation may refer to: Religion * Creation ''ex nihilo'', the concept that matter was created by God out of nothing * Creation myth A creation myth (or cosmogonic myth) ...

social media
platform, or a website where it can for instance be used for
conversational commerceConversational commerce is e-commerce E-commerce (electronic commerce) is the activity of electronically buying or selling of products on online services or over the Internet The Internet (Capitalization of Internet, or internet) is ...
. IM can also consist of conversations in "
chat room The term chat room, or chatroom (and sometimes group chat; abbreviated as GC), is primarily used to describe any form of synchronous conferencing, occasionally even asynchronous conferencing. The term can thus mean any technology ranging from rea ...
s". Depending on the IM protocol, the technical architecture can be
peer-to-peer Peer-to-peer (P2P) computing or networking is a distributed application Distributed computing is a field of computer science that studies distributed systems. A ''distributed system'' is a system whose components are located on different co ...

peer-to-peer
(direct point-to-point transmission) or client–server (an IM service center retransmits messages from the sender to the communication device). It is usually distinguished from
text messaging Text messaging, or texting, is the act of composing and sending electronic messages, typically consisting of alphabetic and numeric characters, between two or more users of mobile device A mobile device (or handheld computer) is a computer ...
which is typically simpler and normally uses
cellular phone A mobile phone, cellular phone, cell phone, cellphone, handphone, or hand phone, sometimes shortened to simply mobile, cell or just phone, is a portable telephone A telephone is a telecommunication Telecommunication is the tra ...

cellular phone
networks. Instant messaging was pioneered in the early Internet era; the
IRC Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a text-based chat (instant messaging Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat Online chat may refer to any kind of communication over the Internet that offers a real-time text, real-time t ...

IRC
protocol was the earliest to achieve wide adoption. Later in the 1990s,
ICQ ICQ New is a cross-platform instant messaging (IM) and VoIP client. The name ICQ derives from the English phrase "CQ (call), I Seek You". Originally developed by the State of Israel, Israeli company Mirabilis (company), Mirabilis in 1996, the cl ...
was among the first closed and commercialized instant messengers, and several rival services appeared afterwards as it became a popular use of the Internet. Beginning with its first introduction in 2005,
BlackBerry Messenger BBM, formerly known by its full name BlackBerry Messenger, was a proprietary mobile instant messenger and videotelephony application included on BlackBerry devices that allows messaging and voice calls between BlackBerry OS, BlackBerry 10, iOS ...
, which initially had been available only on BlackBerry smartphones, soon became one of the most popular mobile instant messaging apps worldwide. BBM was for instance the most used mobile messaging app in the United Kingdom and Indonesia. Instant messaging remains very popular today; IM apps are the most widely used
smartphone A smartphone is a portable device A mobile device (or handheld computer) is a computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can per ...

smartphone
apps: in 2018 there were over 1.3 billion monthly users of
WhatsApp WhatsApp Messenger, or simply WhatsApp, is an American freeware, cross-platform Centralized computing, centralized instant messaging (IM) and Voice over IP, voice-over-IP (VoIP) service owned by Meta Platforms. It allows users to send text messa ...

WhatsApp
and
Facebook Messenger Messenger is an instant messaging Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat allowing real-time text transmission over the Internet or another computer network. Messages are typically transmitted between two or more parties, w ...
, and 980 million
monthly active users Active users is a measurement metric that is commonly used to measure the level of engagement a particular product or object, by quantifying the number of active interactions from visitors within a relevant range of time (daily, weekly and monthl ...
of
WeChat WeChat () is a Chinese multi-purpose instant messaging Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat Online chat may refer to any kind of communication over the Internet that offers a real-time text, real-time transmissio ...
.


Overview

Instant messaging is a set of communication technologies used for text-based communication between two ( private messaging) or more ( chatroom) participants over the Internet or other types of
network Network, networking and networked may refer to: Science and technology * Network theory, the study of graphs as a representation of relations between discrete objects * Network science, an academic field that studies complex networks Mathematics ...
s (see also
LAN messengerA LAN Messenger is an instant messaging program for computers designed for use within a single local area network A local area network (LAN) is a computer network that interconnects computers within a limited area such as a residence, school, ...
). IM–chat happens in real-time. Of importance is that online chat and instant messaging differ from other technologies such as email due to the perceived quasi-
synchrony
synchrony
of the communications by the users. Some systems permit messages to be sent to users not then 'logged on' (''offline messages''), thus removing some differences between IM and email (often done by sending the message to the associated email account). IM allows effective and efficient communication, allowing immediate receipt of acknowledgment or reply. However IM is basically not necessarily supported by transaction control. In many cases, instant messaging includes added features which can make it even more popular. For example, users may see each other via
webcam A webcam is a video camera that feeds or streams an image or video in real time to or through a computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern com ...

webcam
s, or talk directly for free over the Internet using a
microphone A microphone, colloquially called a mic or mike (), is a device – a transducer A transducer is a device that energy from one form to another. Usually a transducer converts a in one form of energy to a signal in another. Transducers ar ...

microphone
and
headphone Headphones are a pair of small Electrodynamic speaker driver, loudspeaker drivers worn on or around the head over a user's ears. They are electroacoustics (acoustical engineering), electroacoustic transducers, which convert an electrical sig ...

headphone
s or loudspeakers. Many applications allow file transfers, although they are usually limited in the permissible file-size. It is usually possible to save a text conversation for later reference. Instant messages are often logged in a local message history, making it similar to the persistent nature of emails. Major IM services are controlled by their corresponding companies. They usually follow the
client–server model Client-server model is a distributed application Distributed computing is a field of computer science that studies distributed systems. A ''distributed system'' is a system whose components are located on different computer network, networked ...
when all clients have to first connect to the central server. This requires users to trust this server because messages can generally be accessed by the company. Companies can be compelled to reveal their user's communication. Companies can also suspend user accounts for any reason. Non-IM types of chat include
multicast In computer networking A computer network is a set of computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of ...

multicast
transmission, usually referred to as "chat rooms", where participants might be anonymous or might be previously known to each other (for example collaborators on a project that is using chat to facilitate communication). An Instant Message Service Center (IMSC) is a network element in the
mobile telephone A mobile phone, cellular phone, cell phone, cellphone, handphone, or hand phone, sometimes shortened to simply mobile, cell or just phone, is a portable telephone A telephone is a telecommunications Appliance (disambiguation), devic ...

mobile telephone
network which delivers instant messages. When a user sends an IM message to another user, the phone sends the message to the IMSC. The IMSC stores the message and delivers it to the destination user when they are available. The IMSC usually has a configurable time limit for how long it will store the message. Few companies who make many of the IMSCs in use in the
GSM GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) is a European standard for mobile devices. GSM may also refer to: Education * GSM London, a higher education provider * Guildhall School of Music and Drama The Guildhall School of Music and Drama i ...

GSM
world are Miyowa, Followap and OZ. Other players include
Acision Acision was a privately held British mobile communications Mobile telephony is the provision of telephone services to phones which may move around freely rather than stay fixed in one location. Telephony is supposed to specifically point t ...
, Colibria,
Ericsson (lit. "Telephone Stock Company of LM Ericsson"), commonly known as Ericsson, is a Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken pri ...

Ericsson
,
Nokia Nokia Corporation (natively Nokia Oyj, referred to as Nokia; stylized as NOKIA) is a Finnish multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational for ...

Nokia
,
Comverse Technology Comverse Technology, Inc., often referred to as simply Comverse, was a technology company located in Woodbury, Nassau County, New York, Woodbury, New York in the United States, that developed and marketed telecommunications software. The company f ...
, Now Wireless, Jinny Software, Miyowa, Feelingk and few others. The term "Instant Messenger" is a
service mark A service mark or servicemark is a trademark A trademark (also written trade mark or trade-mark) is a type of intellectual property Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human ...

service mark
of
Time Warner Warner Media, LLC ( traded as WarnerMedia, but stylized as WarnerMedia; formerly known as Time Warner from 1990 to 2001 and again from 2003 to 2018; from 2001 to 2003, AOL Time Warner and from 1972 to 1990, Warner Communications) is an Americ ...
and may not be used in software not affiliated with AOL in the United States. For this reason, in April 2007, the instant messaging client formerly named
Gaim Pidgin (formerly named Gaim) is a free and open-source Free and open-source software (FOSS) is software that is both free software and open-source software where anyone is free software license, freely licensed to use, copy, study, and cha ...

Gaim
(or gaim) announced that they would be renamed "
Pidgin A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups that do not have a language in common: typically, its vocabulary and grammar are limited and often drawn from several lan ...
".


Clients

Each modern IM service generally provides its own client, either a separately installed piece of software, or a browser-based client. They are normally centralised networks run by the servers of the platform's operators, unlike
peer-to-peer Peer-to-peer (P2P) computing or networking is a distributed application Distributed computing is a field of computer science that studies distributed systems. A ''distributed system'' is a system whose components are located on different co ...

peer-to-peer
protocols like
XMPP Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP, originally named Jabber) is an open Open or OPEN may refer to: Music * Open (band) Open is a band. Background Drummer Pete Neville has been involved in the Sydney/Australian music scene for ...
. These usually only work within the same IM network, although some allow limited function with other services. Third party client software applications exist that will connect with most of the major IM services. There is the class of instant messengers that uses the serverless model, which doesn't require servers, and the IM network consists only of clients. There are several serverless messengers:
RetroShare
RetroShare
, Tox, Bitmessage,
Ricochet A ricochet ( ; ) is a rebound, bounce, or skip off a surface, particularly in the case of a projectile. Most ricochets are caused by accident and while the force of the deflection decelerates the projectile, it can still be energetic and almost a ...
, Ring. Some examples of popular IM services today include
WhatsApp WhatsApp Messenger, or simply WhatsApp, is an American freeware, cross-platform Centralized computing, centralized instant messaging (IM) and Voice over IP, voice-over-IP (VoIP) service owned by Meta Platforms. It allows users to send text messa ...

WhatsApp
,
Facebook Messenger Messenger is an instant messaging Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat allowing real-time text transmission over the Internet or another computer network. Messages are typically transmitted between two or more parties, w ...
,
WeChat WeChat () is a Chinese multi-purpose instant messaging Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat Online chat may refer to any kind of communication over the Internet that offers a real-time text, real-time transmissio ...
, QQ Messenger,
Telegram Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of messages where the sender uses symbolic codes, known to the recipient, rather than a physical exchange of an object bearing the message. Thus flag semaphore is a method of telegraphy, whereas p ...
,
Viber Viber, or Rakuten Viber, is a cross-platform In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and development o ...

Viber
,
Line Line, lines, The Line, or LINE may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * ''Lines'' (film), a 2016 Greek film * ''The Line'' (2017 film) * ''The Line'' (2009 film) * ''The Line'', a 2009 independent film by Nancy Schwartzman Lite ...
, and
Snapchat Snapchat is an American multimedia Multimedia is a form of communication that combines different content forms such as text Text may refer to: Written word * Text (literary theory) Text may refer t ...
. The popularity of certain apps greatly differ between different countries. Certain apps have emphasis on certain uses - for example
Skype Skype () is a Proprietary software, proprietary telecommunications application that specializes in providing VoIP-based videotelephony, videoconferencing and voice calls. It also has instant messaging, file transfer, debit and credit, debit-bas ...

Skype
focuses on
video calling Videotelephony comprises the technologies for the reception and transmission of audio signal, audio-video signals by users in different locations, for communication between people in real time.McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of EngineeringVideot ...
, Slack focuses on messaging and file sharing for work teams, and Snapchat focuses on image messages. Some social networking services offer messaging services as a component of their overall platform, such as
Facebook Facebook is an American online social media and social networking service owned by Meta Platforms. Founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, an ...

Facebook
's
Facebook Messenger Messenger is an instant messaging Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat allowing real-time text transmission over the Internet or another computer network. Messages are typically transmitted between two or more parties, w ...
, while others have a direct messaging function as an additional adjunct component of their
social networking platform A social networking service (also social networking site or social media) is an online platform which people use to build social networks or social relationships with other people who share similar personal or career interests, activities, backg ...
s, like
Instagram Instagram is an American photo 396x396px, '' View from the Window at Le Gras'' (1826 or 1827), by Nicéphore Niépce, the earliest known surviving photograph of a real-world scene, made with a camera obscura. Original (left) & Film coloriz ...

Instagram
,
Reddit Reddit (, stylized as reddit) is an American social news A social news website is a website that features User (system), user-posted stories. Such stories are ranked based on popularity, as voted on by other users of the site or by website admi ...
,
Tumblr Tumblr (stylized as tumblr and pronounced "tumbler") is an American microblogging Microblogging is an online Broadcasting, broadcast medium that exists as a specific form of blogging. A micro-blog differs from a traditional blog in that its con ...

Tumblr
,
TikTok TikTok, known in China as Douyin (), is a Online video platform, video-focused social networking service owned by Chinese company ByteDance. It hosts a variety of short-form user videos, from genres like pranks, stunts, tricks, jokes, dance, a ...
,
Clubhouse Clubhouse may refer to: Locations * The meetinghouse of: ** A club (organization), an association of two or more people united by a common interest or goal ** In the United States, a country club ** In the United Kingdom, a gentlemen's club * A We ...
and
Twitter Twitter is an American microblogging Microblogging is an online Broadcasting, broadcast medium that exists as a specific form of blogging. A micro-blog differs from a traditional blog in that its content is typically smaller in both actu ...

Twitter
, either directly or through
chat room The term chat room, or chatroom (and sometimes group chat; abbreviated as GC), is primarily used to describe any form of synchronous conferencing, occasionally even asynchronous conferencing. The term can thus mean any technology ranging from rea ...
s.


Features

;Private and group messaging: Private chat allows private conversation with another person or a group. The privacy aspect can also be enhanced as applications have a timer feature, like
Snapchat Snapchat is an American multimedia Multimedia is a form of communication that combines different content forms such as text Text may refer to: Written word * Text (literary theory) Text may refer t ...
, where messages or conversations are automatically deleted once the time limit is reached. Public and group chat features allow users to communicate with multiple people at a time. ;Calling: Many major IM services and applications offer the call feature for user-to-user calls, conference calls, and voice messages. The call functionality is useful for professionals who utilize the application for work purposes and as a hands-free method.
Videotelephony Videotelephony, sometimes also referred to as video teleconference or videoconferencing, comprises the technologies for the reception and transmission of audio Audio most commonly refers to sound In physics Physics (from grc, φυ ...
using a
webcam A webcam is a video camera that feeds or streams an image or video in real time to or through a computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern com ...

webcam
is also possible by some. ;Games and entertainment: Some IM applications include in-app games for entertainment.
Yahoo! Messenger Yahoo! Messenger (sometimes abbreviated Y!M) was an advertisement-supported instant messaging client (computing), client and associated protocol provided by Yahoo!. Yahoo! Messenger was provided free of charge and could be downloaded and used wit ...
for example introduced these where users could play a game and viewed by friends in real-time. The
Facebook Messenger Messenger is an instant messaging Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat allowing real-time text transmission over the Internet or another computer network. Messages are typically transmitted between two or more parties, w ...
application has a built in option to play computer games with people in a chat, including games like
Tetris ''Tetris'' (russian: link=no, Тетрис ) is a tile-matching video game created by Russian software engineer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984 for the Electronika 60 computer. It has been published by several companies, most prominently during a dis ...

Tetris
and
Blackjack Blackjack, formerly also Black Jack and Vingt-Un, is the American member of a global family of banking games known as Twenty-One (card game), Twenty-One, whose relatives include the British game of Pontoon (card game), Pontoon and the European ...

Blackjack
. ;Payments: Though a relatively new feature, peer-to-peer payments are available on major messaging platforms. This functionality allows individuals to use one application for both communication and financial tasks. The lack of a service fee also makes messaging apps advantageous to financial applications. Major platforms such as
Facebook messenger Messenger is an instant messaging Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat allowing real-time text transmission over the Internet or another computer network. Messages are typically transmitted between two or more parties, w ...
and
WeChat WeChat () is a Chinese multi-purpose instant messaging Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat Online chat may refer to any kind of communication over the Internet that offers a real-time text, real-time transmissio ...
already offer a payment feature, and this functionality is likely to become a standard amongst IM apps competing in the market.


History

Though the term dates from the 1990s, instant messaging predates the Internet, first appearing on
multi-user Multi-user software is software, computer software that allows access by multiple User (computing), users of a computer. Time-sharing systems are multi-user systems. Most batch processing systems for mainframe computers may also be considered "mul ...
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software System software is software designed to provide a platform for other software. Examples of system software include operating systems (OS) like macOS, Linux, Android (operating system), Android and Mi ...

operating system
s like
Compatible Time-Sharing System The Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) was one of the first time-sharing In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algori ...
(CTSS) and Multiplexed Information and Computing Service (
Multics Multics ("Multiplexed Information and Computing Service") is an influential early time-sharing In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experi ...

Multics
) in the mid-1960s. Initially, some of these systems were used as notification systems for services like printing, but quickly were used to facilitate communication with other users logged into the same machine. CTSS facilitated communication via text message for up to 30 people. Parallel to instant messaging were early
online chat Online chat may refer to any kind of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ar ...
facilities, the earliest of which was
Talkomatic Talkomatic was an online chat Online chat may refer to any kind of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosophy), entities or Organization, ...
(1973) on the
PLATO Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Platoni ...
system, which allowed 5 people to chat simultaneously on a 512x512 plasma display (5 lines of text + 1 status line per person). During the
bulletin board system A bulletin board system or BBS (also called ''Computer Bulletin Board Service'', ''CBBS'') is a computer server In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes th ...
(BBS) phenomenon that peaked during the 1980s, some systems incorporated chat features which were similar to instant messaging; Freelancin' Roundtable was one prime example. The first such general-availability commercial online chat service (as opposed to PLATO, which was educational) was the CompuServe
CB Simulator CompuServe CB Simulator was the first dedicated online chat Online chat may refer to any kind of communication over the Internet that offers a real-time text, real-time transmission of text-based, text messages from sender to receiver. Chat m ...
in 1980, created by
CompuServe CompuServe (CompuServe Information Service, also known by its initialism CIS) was an American online service provider, the first major commercial one in the United States – described in 1994 as "the oldest of the Big Three information services ...
executive Alexander "Sandy" Trevor in
Columbus, Ohio Columbus is the List of US state capitals, state capital and the List of cities in Ohio, most populous city in the U.S. state of Ohio. With a population of 905,748 for the 2020 United States census, 2020 census, it is the List of United States c ...
. As networks developed, the protocols spread with the networks. Some of these used a
peer-to-peer Peer-to-peer (P2P) computing or networking is a distributed application Distributed computing is a field of computer science that studies distributed systems. A ''distributed system'' is a system whose components are located on different co ...

peer-to-peer
protocol (e.g.
talk Talk may refer to: Communication * Communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosophy), entities or Organization, groups through the use of suffic ...
, ntalk and ytalk), while others required peers to connect to a server (see
talker A talker is a chat system that people use to talk to each other over the Internet The Internet (Capitalization of Internet, or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/ ...
and
IRC Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a text-based chat (instant messaging Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat Online chat may refer to any kind of communication over the Internet that offers a real-time text, real-time t ...

IRC
). The Zephyr Notification Service (still in use at some institutions) was invented at MIT's
Project Athena Project Athena was a joint project of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, Digital Equipment Corporation, and IBM to produce a campus-wide distributed computing environment for educational use. It was launched in 1983, and research and devel ...
in the 1980s to allow service providers to locate and send messages to users. Early instant messaging programs were primarily
real-time text Real-time text (RTT) is text Text may refer to: Written word * Text (literary theory) In literary theory, a text is any object that can be "read", whether this object is a work of literature, a street sign, an arrangement of buildings on a ci ...
, where characters appeared as they were typed. This includes the Unix "talk" command line program, which was popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. Some BBS chat programs (i.e. Celerity BBS) also used a similar interface. Modern implementations of real-time text also exist in instant messengers, such as AOL's Real-Time IM as an optional feature. In the latter half of the 1980s and into the early 1990s, the
Quantum Link Quantum Link (or Q-Link) was a U.S. and Canadian online service An online service provider (OSP) can, for example, be an Internet service provider, an email provider, a news provider (press), an entertainment provider (music, movies), a search en ...
online service for
Commodore 64 The Commodore 64, also known as the C64 or the CBM 64, is an 8-bit In computer architecture In computer engineering, computer architecture is a set of rules and methods that describe the functionality, organization, and implementation ...

Commodore 64
computers offered user-to-user messages between concurrently connected customers, which they called "On-Line Messages" (or OLM for short), and later "FlashMail." Quantum Link later became
America Online AOL (stylized as Aol., formerly a company known as AOL Inc. and originally known as America Online) is an American web portal and online service provider based in New York City. It is a brand marketed by Verizon Media. The service traces its ...
and made
AOL Instant Messenger AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) was an instant messaging Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat Online chat may refer to any kind of communication over the Internet that offers a real-time text, real-time transmission ...
(AIM, discussed later). While the Quantum Link client software ran on a
Commodore 64 The Commodore 64, also known as the C64 or the CBM 64, is an 8-bit In computer architecture In computer engineering, computer architecture is a set of rules and methods that describe the functionality, organization, and implementation ...

Commodore 64
, using only the Commodore's
PETSCII PETSCII (''PET Standard Code of Information Interchange''), also known as CBM ASCII, is the character set used in Commodore Business Machines (CBM)'s 8-bit home computer Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market i ...

PETSCII
text-graphics, the screen was visually divided into sections and OLMs would appear as a yellow bar saying "Message From:" and the name of the sender along with the message across the top of whatever the user was already doing, and presented a list of options for responding. As such, it could be considered a type of
graphical user interface The graphical user interface (GUI "UI" by itself is still usually pronounced . or ) is a form of user interface In the industrial design Industrial design is a process of design A design is a plan or specification for the construction ...
(GUI), albeit much more primitive than the later
Unix Unix (; trademarked as UNIX) is a family of multitasking, multiuser Multi-user software is computer software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions that tell a computer how to work. This is in contrast t ...
,
Windows Microsoft Windows, commonly referred to as Windows, is a group of several proprietary {{Short pages monitor Separately, on October 13, 2005, Microsoft and Yahoo! announced that by the 3rd quarter of 2006 they would interoperate using SIP/SIMPLE, which was followed, in December 2005, by the AOL and
Google Google LLC is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational stat ...

Google
strategic partnership deal in which
Google Talk Google Talk was an Instant messaging, instant messaging service that provided both text and voice communication. The instant messaging service was variously referred to colloquially as Gchat, Gtalk, or Gmessage among its users. Google Talk was ...
users would be able to communicate with AIM and ICQ users provided they have an AIM account. There are two ways to combine the many disparate protocols: * Combine the many disparate protocols inside the IM '' client application''. * Combine the many disparate protocols inside the IM ''server'' application. This approach moves the task of communicating with the other services to the server. Clients need not know or care about other IM protocols. For example, LCS 2005 Public IM Connectivity. This approach is popular in XMPP servers; however, the so-called transport projects suffer the same
reverse engineering Reverse engineering (also known as backwards engineering or back engineering) is a process or method through the application of which one attempts to understand through deductive reasoning Deductive reasoning, also deductive logic, is the process ...

reverse engineering
difficulties as any other project involved with closed protocols or formats. Some approaches allow organizations to deploy their own, private instant messaging network by enabling them to restrict access to the
server Server may refer to: Computing *Server (computing) In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and dev ...
(often with the IM network entirely behind their
firewall Firewall may refer to: * Firewall (computing) In computing, a firewall is a network security system that Network monitoring, monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. A firewall typically e ...

firewall
) and administer user permissions. Other corporate messaging systems allow registered users to also connect from outside the corporation LAN, by using an encrypted, firewall-friendly, HTTPS-based protocol. Usually, a dedicated corporate IM server has several advantages, such as pre-populated contact lists, integrated authentication, and better security and privacy. Certain networks have made changes to prevent them from being used by such multi-network IM clients. For example, Trillian had to release several revisions and
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to allow its users to access the MSN, AOL, and Yahoo! networks, after changes were made to these networks. The major IM providers usually cite the need for formal agreements, and
security Security is freedom from, or resilience against, potential Potential generally refers to a currently unrealized ability. The term is used in a wide variety of fields, from physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its El ...
concerns as reasons for making these changes. The use of
proprietary protocol In telecommunications, a proprietary protocol is a communications protocol owned by a single organization or individual. Intellectual property rights and enforcement Ownership by a single organization gives the owner the ability to place restrictio ...
s has meant that many instant messaging networks have been incompatible and users have been unable to reach users on other networks. This may have allowed
social networking A social networking service (also social networking site or social media) is an online platform which people use to build social networks or social relationships with other people who share similar personal or career interests, activities, back ...
with IM-like features and
text messaging Text messaging, or texting, is the act of composing and sending electronic messages, typically consisting of alphabetic and numeric characters, between two or more users of mobile device A mobile device (or handheld computer) is a computer ...
an opportunity to gain market share at the expense of IM.


Effects of IM on communication

Messaging applications have affected the way people communicate on their devices. A survey conducted by MetrixLabs showed that messaging applications 63% of Baby Boomers, 63% of Generation X, and 67% of Generation Y said that they used messaging applications in place of texting. A Facebook survey showed that 65% of people surveyed thought that messaging applications made group messaging easier.


Effects on workplace communication

Messaging applications have also changed how people communicate in the workplace. Enterprise messaging applications like Slack, TeleMessage, Teamnote and Yammer allow companies to enforce policies on how employees message at work and ensure secure storage of sensitive data. Message applications allow employees to separate work information from their personal emails and texts. Messaging applications may make workplace communication efficient, but they can also have consequences on productivity. A study at Slack showed on average, people spend 10 hours a day on Slack, which is about 67% more time than they spend using email.


IM language

Users sometimes make use of
internet slang Internet slang (also called Internet shorthand, cyber-slang, netspeak, digispeak or chatspeak) is a non-standard or unofficial form of language used by people on the Internet to communicate to one another. An example of Internet slang is ":wikt:LO ...
or text speak to abbreviate common words or expressions to quicken conversations or reduce keystrokes. The language has become widespread, with well-known expressions such as 'lol' translated over to face-to-face language. Emotions are often expressed in shorthand, such as the abbreviation
LOL LOL, or lol, is an initialism for laughing out loud and a popular element of Internet slang Internet slang (also called Internet shorthand, cyber-slang, netspeak, digispeak or chatspeak) is a non-standard or unofficial form of language use ...
, BRB and TTYL; respectively laugh(ing) out loud, be right back, and talk to you later. Some, however, attempt to be more accurate with
emotional expression An emotional expression is a behavior that communicates an emotional state or attitude. It can be verbal or non-verbal, and can occur with or without self-awareness. Emotional expressions include facial movements like smiling or scowling, simple beh ...
over IM. Real time reactions such as (''chortle'') (''snort'') (''guffaw'') or (''eye-roll'') are becoming more popular. Also there are certain standards that are being introduced into mainstream conversations including, '#' indicates the use of sarcasm in a statement and '*' which indicates a spelling mistake and/or grammatical error in the prior message, followed by a correction.


Business application

Instant messaging has proven to be similar to personal computers, email, and the
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, in that its adoption for use as a business communications medium was driven primarily by individual employees using consumer software at work, rather than by formal mandate or provisioning by corporate information technology departments. Tens of millions of the consumer IM accounts in use are being used for business purposes by employees of companies and other organizations. In response to the demand for business-grade IM and the need to ensure security and legal compliance, a new type of instant messaging, called "Enterprise Instant Messaging" ("EIM") was created when
Lotus Software Lotus Software (called Lotus Development Corporation before its acquisition by IBM International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational technology company headquartered in Armonk, New York, with operations in ov ...
launched IBM Lotus Sametime in 1998. Microsoft followed suit shortly thereafter with Microsoft Exchange Instant Messaging, later created a new platform called Microsoft Office Live Communications Server, and released Office Communications Server 2007 in October 2007.
Oracle Corporation Oracle Corporation is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational ...
also jumped into the market with its
Oracle Beehive Oracle Beehive is collaboration platform software developed by Oracle Corporation that combines email, team collaboration, instant messaging, and conferencing in a single solution. It can be deployed on-premises as licensed software or subscribed to ...
unified collaboration software. Both IBM Lotus and Microsoft have introduced federation between their EIM systems and some of the public IM networks so that employees may use one interface to both their internal EIM system and their contacts on AOL, MSN, and Yahoo. As of 2010, leading EIM platforms include
IBM Lotus Sametime HCL Sametime Premium (formerly IBM Sametime and IBM Lotus Sametime) is a client–server application and middleware Middleware is a computer software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions and data (computing ...
, Microsoft Office Communications Server, Jabber XCP and Cisco Unified Presence. Industry-focused EIM platforms such as Reuters Messaging and Bloomberg Messaging also provide IM abilities to financial services companies. The adoption of IM across corporate networks outside of the control of IT organizations creates risks and liabilities for companies who do not effectively manage and support IM use. Companies implement specialized IM archiving and security products and services to mitigate these risks and provide safe, secure, productive instant messaging abilities to their employees. IM is increasingly becoming a feature of
enterprise software Enterprise software, also known as enterprise application software (EAS), is computer software Software is a collection of instructions Instruction or instructions may refer to: Computing * Instruction, one operation of a processor within a ...
rather than a stand-alone application. IM products can usually be categorised into two types: Enterprise Instant Messaging (EIM) and Consumer Instant Messaging (CIM). Enterprise solutions use an internal IM server, however this is not always feasible, particularly for smaller businesses with limited budgets. The second option, using a CIM provides the advantage of being inexpensive to implement and has little need for investing in new hardware or server software. For corporate use, encryption and conversation archiving are usually regarded as important features due to security concerns. There are also a bunch of open source encrypting messengers. Sometimes the use of different operating systems in organizations requires use of software that supports more than one platform. For example, many software companies use
Windows Microsoft Windows, commonly referred to as Windows, is a group of several proprietary {{Short pages monitor