BEFORE YOU SIGN UP (A FEW WORDS ABOUT PRIVACY)
Every instant messenger requires you to setup an account in order to access their IM network. Your IM account will use a unique identifier to distinguish you from other people out there. Sometimes the unique ID is a number (as with ICQ or Odigo) but usually it's a name. This ID is used to log-in to the IM system, and is sometimes referred to as a screen name or login name.
In addition to a login name, you will also be asked a veritable plethora of personal questions… everything from your full name, age, sex, sometimes all the way to your address and phone number! Most of this personal information is not required, and generally none of it (except your email address…and then only sometimes) is validated for accuracy. In other words, you can leave it blank or even make stuff up! I recommend that you provide as little personal detail as possible, at least to start. Remember, any information you enter may be available to anyone else on the Internet.
PICKING A SCREEN NAME
One of the first things you'll need to do is pick a screen name. This is the name that your friends will use to identify you. You might be tempted to use your own name, “Jeff” for example, but there are two reasons you shouldn't. First, you want to control who knows who you are. In the interest of preserving your personal privacy, it's generally a good idea to keep your identity to yourself. Then you can choose who you reveal yourself to. The second reason? It's probably already taken!
Some IM programs will offer alternate names based on the one you submitted (i.e. “Jeff3048” or some other incremental version). Or you can get creative! Here on BigBlueBall.com you'll see all kinds of screen names, from the simple-and-straightforward (“Jeff”) to the absurd (“Orphan Burrito”). So have some fun and let your personality show through!
INSTALLING THE SOFTWARE
While connected to the Internet, choose the software you want to use and download it. If you're prompted to “Run from here” you can select that to automatically launch the installation program once the download is complete. Otherwise, make a note of where you save the downloaded software and the file name. When the download is complete, run the software.
THE SIGN-UP PROCESS
Follow the onscreen instructions to setup the program and create your account. Once the software is installed, your instant messenger will startup, prompting you for your login name and password. You have the option to save this information to automatically connect your instant messenger in the future, but if you do, anyone using that computer will be able to use your instant messaging account.
Back to Selecting an Instant Messenger