Instant messaging facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Pidgin 2.0 contact window
A buddy list in Pidgin 2.0

Instant messaging (IM) is a way of chatting between two or more people by typing text. The text is then sent by computers over a network such as the Internet.

Instant messaging must have an instant messaging client that hooks up to a service that can send instant messages. Instant messaging is different from e-mail because conversations happen and can be read right away (instantly). A multiprotocol instant messaging application lets one connect to many IM networks. Instant messaging services got many ideas from an older and still popular way to online chat named Internet Relay Chat (IRC).


Instant messaging offers real-time communication and allows easy collaboration, which might be considered more akin to genuine conversation than email's "letter" format. In contrast to e-mail, the parties know whether the peer is available. Most systems allow the user to set an online status or away message so peers are notified when the user is available, busy, or away from the computer. On the other hand, people are not forced to reply immediately to incoming messages. For this reason, some people consider communication via instant messaging to be less intrusive than communication via phone.

Instant messaging allows instantaneous communication between a number of parties simultaneously, by transmitting information quickly and efficiently, featuring immediate receipt of acknowledgment or reply. In certain cases IM involves additional features, which make it even more popular, i.e. to see the other party, e.g. by using ((web-cams)), or to talk directly for free over the internet.


Instant messaging applications began to appear in the 1970s on multi-user operating systems like UNIX, initially to facilitate communication with other users logged in to the same machine, then on the local network, and subsequently across the Internet. Modern, Internet-wide, GUI-based messaging clients, as they are known today, began to take off in the mid 1990s with ICQ (1996) being the first, followed by AOL Instant Messenger (AOL Instant Messenger, 1997). Meanwhile, other companies developed their own applications (Yahoo, MSN, Excite, Ubique, IBM).

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Instant messaging Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.