Instant messaging

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Instant messaging is a form of text-based real-time communication on the Internet

  • “Instant messaging allows you to maintain a list of people that you wish to interact with. You can send messages to any of the people in your list, often called a buddy list or contact list, as long as that person is online. Sending a message opens up a small window where you and your friend can type in messages that both of you can see” - (How Instant Messaging Works retrieved 13:40, 27 May 2006 (MEST))
  • “Instant messaging requires the use of a client program that hooks up an instant messaging service and differs from e-mail in that conversations are then able to happen in realtime. Most services offer a presence information feature, indicating whether people on one's list of contacts are currently online and available to chat. This may be called a contact list.” Wikipedia:Instant messaging.

See also: shoutbox, portable chatroom, micro blogging, extensible messaging and presence protocol.

Features and benefits

Here are the most common features:

  • Instant messages
  • Contact List management
  • Web Links sharing
  • Files transmission
  • Audio conferencing
  • Chat rooms.


  • In contrast to e-mails or phone, the parties know whether the peer is available (users can set to online or offline status if they wish).
  • People are not forced to reply immediately to incoming messages.
  • There is a trace. Instant messages typically get logged in a local message history
  • It is easy to exchange links (compared to a phone call).

Standards and systems



  • Internet Relay Chat (IRC) like systems (the original, 1996)
  • Typical modern systems like AIM, MSN, Yahoo that offer many features (including voice and video chat).
  • Small IM blocks integrated into portals like LMSs and C3MS (web based, no special client needed).

Popular systems

  • AIM (America online)
  • MSN Messenger (Microsoft)
  • Yahoo Messenger
  • ICQ ("I seek you")
  • Gtalk (Google)

See the Wikipedia's instant messaging article for more systems.

Instant messaging in education

  • on-demand formal tutoring
  • peer-to-peer informal tutoring
  • on-line discussions (chats and specials educational chats are better for that)


Instant messaging
VoIP (should be moved to a separate article some day ....)