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IM - instant message

IM is short for instant message, a type of communications service that enables you to create a kind of private chat room with another individual in order to communicate in real time over the Internet, analagous to a telephone conversation but using text-based, not voice-based, communication.

Typically, the instant messaging system alerts you whenever somebody on your private list is online. You can then initiate a chat session with that particular individual.

IM Software

Typically an Instant Messenger program is installed on your local computer. You create an account then add other people using the same IM program to your contact list (also called a friend or buddy list).  The program will alert you when a contact is online and you can initiate a chat session with that person. Most programs allow you to send instant messages back and forth with people in your contact list, create chat rooms for multiple contacts to communicate, share Web or video links, play sounds or connect with your friends using voice chat.

There are a number of options for free online, instant messaging. Some services use a proprietary protocol so contacts must use the same service to IM, while others offer compatibility with other services.

Recommended Reading: Webopedia's text messaging abbreviations

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