Real-time, private online communication between two or more individuals, usually in a text-based communications environment.
If you want to chat privately with a friend, family member or business colleague in real-time then IM or Instant Messaging is the technology to use. Many instant messaging services now offer audio and video capabilities, so armed with a microphone and webcam (or just your smartphone), you can converse and see who you’re talking to.
There are hundreds of instant messaging clients available, each with their own unique set of options and features. Some specialize in video conferencing, others are primarily used in offices, while still others are designed around relationships, allowing you to send quick love notes and plan an evening out, all while messaging your special someone. If you’re looking for a specific feature, check your device’s app store, and make sure the service you choose is available on your friends’ devices as well.
Many social networking services also offer an integrated instant messaging feature, allowing you to send private messages to your contacts on that site. If you’re looking to connect with your contacts on a specific social media platform, check the platform’s website to see if their app includes instant messaging or if they use separate messaging program.
Learn more: Instant Messaging
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use any messaging app to talk with my friends?
Most instant messaging apps are designed for their own messaging network. That means you will only be able to talk to contacts who are also using that app. To communicate with someone using a different platform, you will need to download that app as well. For example, if you use Snapchat to talk to your best friend, but also want to message a Facebook friend, you’ll need to download Facebook’s Messenger app too. Keep in mind that not all platforms are available on all operating systems or devices, so check with your friends or colleagues first, to make sure everyone can connect. There are some applications available that allow you to chat on multiple messaging networks, but their supported networks are usually very limited.
Do I have to know the people I instant message with?
Most instant messaging programs only let you message with your contacts, meaning you entered their user information and they approved you as a contact. While you don’t have to know these people in person, you will have to make some sort of connection with them beforehand. If you’re looking for new people to instant message with, consider joining a chatroom, online group or community forum. There are also some instant messaging apps that allow users to join online communities or communicate with other members based on special criteria, such as interests or geographic location. Given the ever-changing landscape of instant messaging apps, the best way to find a service catering to your particular interest is to browse the available messaging apps in your favorite app store.