Instant messaging (IM) is a form of text-only communication where two people engage in a single chat session over their personal computers or cell phones over the Internet. Unlike regular chat sessions, in IM, the participant need not give out personal information like name, age or location in order to join the conversation. Rather, the instant message service providers keep these parameters hidden and or private. Moreover, IM differs from normal chat, where the user speaks only to those on the message channel who are present, or within a private chat room where all other users see everything being said. However, even in this limited instance, the “self talk” factor is greatly encouraged by chat servers as it acts as an impetus to encourage people to speak more.
Immediate messaging has grown into a very popular tool for online communication. Almost every leading e-commerce site, social networking sites and corporate sites including Facebook have their own instant messaging systems where in people can chat away without having to type in their messages in text format. The text messages can include links, ads, personal messages, file attachments and the like. The sender of the message may also be given the opportunity to end the chat as well.
The early 1990s witnessed a new form of instant messaging that evolved from simple text messaging with one-to-one conversations to group chat with multiple users in one chat session. This was the beginning of chat groups. In the earlier times, instant messengers used to send limited numbers of words. However, with the passage of time and technology, the capabilities of modern instant messaging have improved. In fact, at present, some instant messengers are capable of sending images as well.
Today, it is even possible to take pictures and videos with the help of some Instant Messengers. This feature is known as the Plato system. With the help of the plato system, one can share pictures and videos with multiple users through a single Instant Messenger while sitting on any modern-day computer. The Plato system is developed with the help of the Linux operating system and is provided with support for the X Window server. This means that it can be connected to different display terminals to enable it to use the multi-touch input devices available with modern laptops.
Mobile phone manufacturers such as Nokia, Samsung and others are rapidly bringing out handsets that come with latest technologies that help in integrating digital cameras with the users’ phones. This is one of the latest additions in the world of instant messaging. The images that are captured by the digital cameras can be sent to the users’ mobile devices where they can view them through the LCD screen or LED panel of the phones. These pictures can be sent at any time of the day or night from any part of the globe using a single device. This is one of the most exciting ways to enjoy a message along with the sender’s image.
Video conferencing and voice-recording are the other widely used IM services. Video conferencing allows the users to connect the two personal computers using a high-speed internet connection over Wi-Fi and allow the conference participants to communicate via the audio and video outputs simultaneously. Video conference services are widely used in corporate environment and are often used to reduce travel expenses of senior management teams. Voice-recording and transcription services are widely used by healthcare agencies, legal, educational and government departments. Im services can also be used to send text messages at any time of the day from any part of the world.