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Instant Messenger

Social Media Portal Landscape - Instant Messenger


Instant messenger (IM) is an application that enables real-time text based chat between two or more people.  IM (also known and instant messaging) is a personal communication method, and is closer in nature to a telephone call or text conversation than it is to email (which it is often wrongly compared to). 


IM actually pre-dates the internet, and was used in networked systems such as CTSS and Multics in the mid 1960s.  During the 1980s, bulletin board systems (or discussion boards – see Communities) started to incorporate chat-like features.  During the early 1990s Commodore 64 computer’s online service Quantum Link offered customers user-to-user messages which they called ‘On-Line Messages’ (OLM). 

In the mid 1990s, new modern, more visually appealing messaging clients such as ICQ and PowWow began to gain popularity.  Quantum Link changed its name in 1991 to become America Online (AOL), and launched AOL Instant Messenger six years later, still one of today’s most popular IM applications. AOL then acquired Mirabilis, the company behind ICQ who had been awarded two IM related patents from the United States patent office.  1997 also saw the birth of new messenger clients from companies such as Excite, MSN and Yahoo!


Since then, it has gone through many developments such as having the ability to send files and photos, offline messages, introduction of icons (smilies and similar) group chat, voice over IP (VoIP), web cams, interactive features such as games. IM is increasingly looked to by marketers and advertisers who wish to reach users in a personal manner and many businesses are adopting chat functionality on their website as a customer service channel.

For much of IM’s history, each client was insulated and users could not chat with friends on other platforms.  However a range of partnerships, starting in 2005 which allowed users on MSN Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger to chat with each other from within one platform.  Since then, Google’s chat platform Google Talk and AOL have partnered offering the same functionality.

Social networking services such as Facebook, MySpace, Bebo (Bebo has since removed its IM facility) and similar are integrating chat functionality into their communities in a bid to retain users who prefer the real-time conversations with friends and family that IM services offer.  As the world becomes smaller with globalisation, many online users are finding the need to become users of multiple IM services which has seen the birth of services that allow for multiple IM IDs to be logged in at once via the one application, such as Trillian, GAIM and eBuddy.


One of the biggest game changes in instant messaging over recent years has been the launch of Skype in 2003, purchased by eBay in September 2005 for a huge sum of $2.6 billion USD.  Its launch brought the growth of IM and voice calls over the internet (VoIP), a model that has been adopted by all of the major IM clients though they have seen limited success in comparison.

Instant messaging takes place most commonly on the desktop, but increasingly on mobile handsets.  With the growth of IM friendly handsets (i.e. one with a full QWERTY keyboard – virtual or otherwise) and all-you-can-eat data costs with mobile operators, IM is seeing massive growth via mobile phones – particularly services such as Fring and Nimbuzz who like those mentioned above, allow for multiple logins.

The benefits of adding your IM service to SMP

  • Better communicate your IM service to your audience
  • Reach brands, marketers and advertisers that are looking to connect with your target audience
  • Connect with potential stakeholders, media and researchers raising the visibility of your instant messenger (IM)
  • Update your stakeholders and target audiences with case studies, events, press releases and/or whitepapers about your software or technology
  • Differentiate your approach, products, service and/or technology from your competitors
  • Submit news scoops about your app through SMP to be considered for social media news
  • List other assets of what your IM possesses that relate to the social media Landscape and demonstrate the other relationships that it has
  • Share your expertise through opinion and thought leadership articles published on the SMP site reaching your audiences

Do you run an instant messenger client?

Become part of the SMP Landscape by adding your instant messenger (IM) application.