Instant Messaging from the office
When you meet someone for the first time, do you ask for their ASL? Do you LOL if they come out with something funny, and say CU L8er when you finish the conversation? If you know what I’m talking about, then you are probably already a user of Instant Messaging, or IM.
The idea behind IM is simple. A program on your computer tells you when a friend is online. You can then send a message to your friend, who can type a reply instantly. To do this, you need an IM program.
Worldwide, AIM, the Instant Messaging service provided by AOL, is by far the most popular. It has 195 million users who send about 1.6 billion messages every day. ICQ, which is owned by AOL, has about 140 million messengers, and MSN and Windows IM make up about 75 million users.
The advantage over e-mail is that with Instant Messaging you know you’re likely to get a reply. IM is already hugely popular in the USA, where people spend five times more time online than in Europe. However, IM is starting to take off in the UK, with over 3000 people signing up to MSN Messenger alone every day.
While the plus points of IM are obvious, there is one very important disadvantage: you can only contact someone on the same network as you. If your friend is using AIM, and you are using MSN, you cannot talk to each other. This makes IM less useful than it should be. Imagine if you couldn’t send an e-mail from hotmail to yahoo. However, things look like they’ll change soon.
In general, the future looks bright for IM. Lots of programs also allow you to have voice conversations, video conferencing – this means you can see the other person using a webcam – and also let you swap pictures, music and other files.
So, perhaps we’ll all soon be asking someone’s age, sex and location (ASL), and laughing out loud (LOL) when they say something funny. See you later! (CU L8er)