What is Instant Messaging?
Instant Messaging, or IM as it is more commonly known as, is the exchange of text based messages over some sort of software application in real time. On the software, generally the user is able to see which of his friends, or buddies, are online, and can choose to have a conversation with them by simply clicking on their name. This is along the same lines as e-mail, but the big difference is the promptness at which the messages are sent, simulating a conversation that one would have in real life. Most IM software only accepts text only messages, but there are some, like AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Instant Messenger, and MSN Instant Messenger that allow voice messaging, file sharing, and even video chatting provided that both users have a webcam that supports this feature.

Who uses Instant Messaging?

The majority of people who use IM are teenagers, who use it for social purposes and, in some cases, educational. Many of our young people who go into college are already seasoned IM users, and are familiar with the product. Although IM still has time before develops into a more accepted mean of communication, it is currently being used on college campuses for recruiting and admissions, and even some teaching. When it is used for teaching, it is generally only used when there is a long distance between the student and the teacher, and because of its low cost. Also, many public libraries set up online reference desks with IM applications, allowing library goers to have access to this feature. Lastly, IM could be used to set up a collaborative learning environment with school in another area. You could use the text based chat to talk about what each person learns in each of their different classes, but could also use the file sharing feature to give examples of what they learn in classes.

What are the downsides of Instant Messaging?

Some downsides of IM, because there is no sort of content filter, are that people are not discouraged to engage in disruptive or hurtful behavior that they most likely would not engage in in public or in a different context. This has come to be known as IM bullying, where people will send hurtful messages over IM to victims, and in some cases it can be worse than actual physical bullying. Another downside is that this new technology has some security risks, like forms of spam that can be sent over IM. This is known as "spim" when it is over IM, and it is particularly harmful because it is hard to distinguish the sources from which the messages were sent. Also, some IM services will archive chats that you have, so you may say things to someone that can be brought up in the future, which could cause someone consequences.

All in all, Instant Messaging is a great, new form of communication that allows millions of people to become connected to others around the world. Hopefully in the future it will evolve into one of the primary forms of communication, and it is already well on its way.

What is Chatting?

Chatting is along the same lines as instant messaging, although it is generally not a one on one conversation with a person, but a group conversation with many people. The way that this is done works along the same lines as Instant Messaging, sending a message in real time, and some Instant Messaging services offer this feature.

Who uses Chatting?

Chatting generally attracts the same kind of people that instant messaging does. They majority of chat room users prove to be teenagers, but they are not they only people that use this web feature. Many business hold online business chats in order to close deals or talk to associates that are in different countries or areas of world. I have also observed them on many websites where, like a skateboarding website for example, where you can share your interests on the topic of which the site is based with other people who share the same interests. Chatting can also be used in the same manner as IM, because of the distance between the student and the teacher and the general low cost.

What are the downsides of Chatting?

One big downside of chatting is that there is no sort of content filter on the text that you can put through, so people can become exposed to things that they may not want to become exposed to through this. Another downside is with many people talking at one time, it can become confusing and frustrating to deal when you are trying to carry on a one on one conversation.

Chatting is a great internet feature, both for casual uses and professional. It has the potential to develop into something that we use as an every day mean of communication, and I see a bright future ahead for it.

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