Public IM Services
From AIM to Meebo to Yahoo Messenger, here's a list of the leading public (and free) instanting messaging services.
The Internet has had a huge effect on the way we communicate with friends, family and co-workers. Giving out your e-mail address has become as commonplace as giving a phone number. While e-mail is considered to be the staple on online communicating, instant messaging is also common as it allows for real-time (i.e, immediate) contact with others.
By definition, Instant Messaging (IM) ienables you to create a type of private chat room with another individual in order to communicate in real-time over the Internet, analogous to a telephone conversation but using text-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.
Instant Messaging FeaturesTo use IM to chat with others online you first need to decide which of the available free public services you want to use. You download the messaging client and sign-up for the service by creating a username and password. Once you have done that, you will then be able to communicate with others using the service. IM clients allow you to add users to a contact list, also called a buddy list. Once a user has been added to your contact list, you are then able to see that person's status, or presence — that is, whether they are online and available to chat, online but currently away from their computer, or offline. You can then initiate a real-timeconversation with the person who is online. Depending on the service you use, this could be a text-based instant message, a text-based chat session,or voice chat session. Some services allow you to send a text message to a person who is not online. In this case the user will receive the message the next time he or she logs on. Most public IM services also allow you to send files, sounds, images and Web links to users on your contact lists through the IM client.
Many IM clients will allow you to communicate only with users on the same network. However, there are alternative clients that you can use to enable cross-platform communications. Here is a list of the most popular public instant messaging networks and clients being used today:
Popular Instant Messaging Platforms
Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal is has been writing about technology for more than a decade. She is a frequent contributor to EcommerceGuide and managing editor at Webopedia. You can tweet her online @AuroraGG.
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