Instant messaging is a real time conversation between two people. You can write a message to the person you are talking to and as soon as you press send the message will appear on the other person's screen. For instant messaging to work both parties need to be online at the same time.
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Why not just email?
When you email someone you do not know for sure if they are at their computer or even if the computer is turned on. It could take minutes or even hours for the person to receive your email. With instant messaging you can see who of your contacts are on line and you can talk to them instantly. Instant messaging also makes conversing easier; there are more steps to go through when conversing over email. Instant messaging is fast and simple.
Instant messaging programs
There are a number of Instant message platforms that you can use to instant message. Traditionally both parties had to be using the same program, however many current programs allow for interoperability so you can instant message friends on other programs as well.
There are a number of popular services to utilise instant messaging:
- Facebook – you can instant message with your Facebook friends who are also online.
- Gmail Chat
- AIM instant messenger
- Microsoft Instant messenger
- Skype messenger.
Some programs also allow for video chat and document sharing while you chat.
If you have a gmail account (a free email account with Google) you will be able to use gmail chat. Whilst your inbox is open you will notice on the left hand menu towards the bottom of the screen will be a box titled Chat. Here you can type an email address of a friend or family member or friends you have already included in your contacts will show up automatically in the chat list.
You can click on the Set Status here link to choose whether you are available or not available to chat. This can be handy when you want to check your emails but do not have time to chat. If you click unavailable then your gmail friends will see the grey dot rather than the green available dot.
When your friends are available to chat you will see the green dot next to their name. To chat, you just click on their name and a chat box will appear in the bottom right hand corner of your internet browser.
You then click inside the message box and type your message. When you press enter your message will appear on the screen of the person you are chatting to. They can then reply. When they do you will notice you can see the trail of conversation.
If you have a Facebook account you will notice that when you are logged on to face book that there is a panel on the right hand side with a list of your friends. There may be a green dot next to some of the names. These are the people who are also online and are available to chat with you.
When you click on the name of a friend with a green dot a small chat box will appear in the bottom corner of your screen much the same as with the gmail chat. Here you can write a message and when you press the enter button your message will appear on the other persons screen.