What is Instant Messaging?
Instant messaging (IM) is a text-based form of communication between two or more people across a computer network. Text messages, files and photos are sent and received in real time, allowing for instantaneous “written conversations” to take place. IM communication has gained worldwide popularity during the past decade because of its efficiency and accessibility. Instant messaging differs from other online chat systems because it enables connections only between known users from a contact or “buddy list.” This offers a higher degree of security than general chat rooms, which facilitate communication among anonymous parties in a multi-user environment. The term “Instant Messenger” is owned by Time Warner and may not be used by services unrelated to AOL.
How to Use Instant Messaging
Use of instant messaging requires the installation of specific IM client software on a computer. There are a number of different IM clients that operate in a similar fashion. Well-known clients include AOL, MSN and ICQ. The client software forges connections with other clients by logging into a central server. Modern instant messaging services typically provide their own client, which could be browser-based or separately installed software. Most software applications work exclusively with their company’s service. However, several third-party client software applications are now available, such as Pidgin, Trillian and Digsby. These programs connect the major IM services together and allow inter-operability among them.
The Origin and History of Instant Messaging
The origins of instant messaging can be traced back to multi-user operating systems such as CTSS and Multics in the pre-Internet 1960s. Users who logged onto the same machine were able to communicate with each other. In the 1980s, systems such as Freelancin’ Roundtable began to incorporate chat features that resembled instant messaging. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Quantum Link offered a service called On-Line Messages (OLM) that allowed customers to communicate with other connected customers.
Early IM programs showed each character as it was typed. The mid 1990s saw the launch of several Graphical User Interface (GUI)-based messaging clients such as PowWow, ICQ and Instant Messenger. These clients moved beyond text-based interfaces by incorporating graphical icons and visual indicators. Another key client was CU-SeeMe, which primarily used an audio/video chat link but also allowed users to type to each other.
Instant messaging has become an immensely popular method of communication for businesses and personal use. Enterprise Instant Messaging refers to IM products created for large businesses that use their own internal IM server. Consumer Instant Messaging products are more feasible for smaller businesses or personal use. These are inexpensive to set up and do not require additional investments in new hardware and server software.
A plethora of new capabilities have been developed to enhance instant messaging. Users are able to personalize their own icons, greetings and screen interfaces. Most IM programs nowadays enable users to share files such as videos, images and music. Some clients, such as AOL, MSN, Google and Yahoo! have incorporated instant messaging into their e-mail services so that users can be updated about their new e-mails while they are sending messages. It is also possible to talk to other users through microphones during a messaging session. Many programs also offer mobile capabilities, allowing messages to be sent and received from cellular devices such as a phone or Blackberry.
Popular Instant Messaging Abbreviations
IM has affected culture in many ways. Several abbreviations that came into use through instant messaging have entered the spoken English language. For example: LOL (laugh out loud), BRB (be right back) and TTYL (talk to you later).
Criticism of Instant Messaging
The phenomenon of instant messaging has encountered some criticism. Educational authorities have expressed concern that the growing dependence on IM is encouraging youngsters to neglect their spelling and punctuation. Moreover, despite its overwhelming success in the realm of business communication, the use of instant messaging has also created a few problems for the workplace. These include employees engaging in it for social purposes or spreading inappropriate jokes when they should be working.
What Is An Instant Messaging Worm?
Apart from the ability to send real time text messages, users can also choose to attach to outgoing messages various types of computer files. Some examples are image, video, program, text, and audio files. Some servers limit the number, size, or type of file that can be attached to an instant message. It is important to be aware when receiving messages with attachments that many malicious IM viruses (known as worms) propagate themselves via seemingly innocent files. For this reason, opening attached files should always be approached with caution and updated virus definitions should be installed at all times.
An instant messaging worm is a form of computer virus that spreads through computer networks and individual computers by exploiting vulnerabilities and other features of instant messaging clients and protocols. Such worms can be defined as a hostile piece of computer coding that is designed to cause harm or damage to the host computer or network. Instant messaging worms are self-perpetuating and spread throughout a computer network and migrate to other networks without human intervention.
Instant messaging has become an increasingly popular communications tool for internet users with an estimated 300 million regular users world wide. Instant messaging allows users to instantly send messages to other users and also allows for the transfer of files between users. It is this popularity that has made the instant messenger platform an increasingly attractive medium for virus developers. Since the discovery of the first worm in 2001, their usage has been steadily on the rise. Many IM worms take advantage of the users IM contact file to locate other users, replicate and spread quickly throughout an entire network.Instant messenger worms can infect most of the popular IM services including MSN or Windows messenger, Yahoo! messenger, AOL instant messenger and ICQ. In the same vein, users can block access from users of whom they suspect malicious activity or with whom they do not wish to communicate.
The Difference Between IM and Email
While IM may seem in many respects to be identical to email, there are two major differences. Email can be sent to any address regardless as to whether the recipient is online or not; instant messages can only be sent to users who are online with IM client software running. Additionally, blocked users cannot communicate with other users who do not wish to receive messages from them.
The second major difference is incompatibility between different IM clients. Email enjoys a universal protocol which allows mail to be sent from different mail programs and even computers running different operating systems. Barring unforeseen circumstances, mail sent from a Mac using Intellimail can be read by a Windows XP user with ease. This does not hold true for attached files, due to differing file formats for different operating systems. As stated previously, a Yahoo instant messenger user will not be able to send or receive messages from AOL or MSN instant messenger users. There are well over 100 different instant messaging client programs available today and the number is increasing rapidly. The most well known are: Microsoft Office Communicator, AOL instant messenger, Google talk, Yahoo messenger, ICQ, Skype and Windows live messenger. The vast majority of IM client programs have versions for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS operating systems. IM clients are also available for Linux and Unix operating systems as well as for an increasing number of mobile phone operating systems.