What is Instant Messaging (IM)?
Instant messaging allows you to detect when your friends are online and send them short messages in real-time. People just like you and I are finding instant messaging a great way to keep in touch with friends, family and business associates. In fact, Jupiter Media Metrix has declared that instant messaging is the fastest-growing segment of the Internet, estimating that by 2003, 90% of the online population will use IM.
Today, millions of people use instant messaging sending billions of messages every day. There are many IM networks available, and the most popular IM programs are free to download and use. The catch is that many of these IM networks are configured as walled gardens. You cannot send a message from one network to another. Fortunately, there are exceptions, and this is improving year-by-year, but still largely true today.
BigBlueBall doesn't favor any particular instant messenger, providing an excellent reference for someone looking for practical, objective advice on the different IM programs.
New to Instant Messaging?
If you're new to instant messaging (or just want to introduce your grandma to the concept), start with Choosing an Instant Messenger. The general rule to keep in mind is that you need to use an instant messenger that lets you communicate with your peers. Unless you can convince them to switch, you will need a program that can “talk” with their IM network.
For detailed information on instant messaging, there are a number of resources available at BigBlueBall. We have a listing with the latest versions of the most popular IM programs, discussion forums with expert answers to your IM questions, and overviews of many IM programs.