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See also: "Comparison of instant messaging clients

Each modern IM service generally provides its own client, either a separately installed piece of software, or a "browser-based client. These usually only work within the same IM network, although some allow limited function with other services. Third party client software applications exist that will connect with most of the major IM services.


Pidgin's tabbed chat window in Linux

Standard complementary instant messaging applications offer functions like file transfer, contact list(s), the ability to hold several simultaneous conversations, etc. These may be all the functions that a small business needs, but larger organizations will require more sophisticated applications that can work together. The solution to finding applications capable of this is to use enterprise versions of instant messaging applications. These include titles like XMPP, "Lotus Sametime, "Microsoft Office Communicator, etc., which are often integrated with other enterprise applications such as workflow systems. These enterprise applications, or "enterprise application integration (EAI), are built to certain constraints, namely storing data in a common format.

There have been several attempts to create a unified standard for instant messaging: "IETF's "Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and "SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE), "Application Exchange (APEX), "Instant Messaging and Presence Protocol (IMPP), the open "XML-based "Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), and "Open Mobile Alliance's "Instant Messaging and Presence Service developed specifically for mobile devices.

Most attempts at producing a unified standard for the major IM providers (AOL, "Yahoo! and "Microsoft) have failed, and each continues to use its own "proprietary protocol.

However, while discussions at IETF were stalled, "Reuters signed the first inter-service provider connectivity agreement on September 2003. This agreement enabled AIM, ICQ and "MSN Messenger users to talk with "Reuters Messaging counterparts and vice versa. Following this, Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL agreed to a deal in which Microsoft's "Live Communications Server 2005 users would also have the possibility to talk to public instant messaging users. This deal established SIP/SIMPLE as a standard for protocol interoperability and established a connectivity fee for accessing public instant messaging groups or services. Separately, on October 13, 2005, Microsoft and Yahoo! announced that by the 3rd quarter of 2006 they would interoperate using SIP/SIMPLE, which was followed, in December 2005, by the AOL and "Google strategic partnership deal in which "Google Talk users would be able to communicate with AIM and ICQ users provided they have an AIM account.

There are two ways to combine the many disparate protocols:

Some approaches allow organizations to deploy their own, private instant messaging network by enabling them to restrict access to the "server (often with the IM network entirely behind their "firewall) and administer user permissions. Other corporate messaging systems allow registered users to also connect from outside the corporation LAN, by using an encrypted, firewall-friendly, HTTPS-based protocol. Usually, a dedicated corporate IM server has several advantages, such as pre-populated contact lists, integrated authentication, and better security and privacy.

Certain networks have made changes to prevent them from being used by such multi-network IM clients. For example, "Trillian had to release several revisions and "patches to allow its users to access the MSN, AOL, and Yahoo! networks, after changes were made to these networks. The major IM providers usually cite the need for formal agreements, and "security concerns as reasons for making these changes.

The use of "proprietary protocols has meant that many instant messaging networks have been incompatible and users have been unable to reach users on other networks.[9] This may have allowed "social networking with IM-like features and "text messaging an opportunity to gain market share at the expense of IM.[10]

IM language[edit]

SMS language

Users sometimes make use of "internet slang or "text speak to abbreviate common words or expressions to quicken conversations or reduce keystrokes. The language has become widespread, with well-known expressions such as 'lol' translated over to face-to-face language.

Emotions are often expressed in shorthand, such as the abbreviation "LOL, "BRB and TTYL; respectively laugh(ing) out loud, be right back, and talk to you later.

Some, however, attempt to be more accurate with "emotional expression over IM. Real time reactions such as (chortle) (snort) (guffaw) or (eye-roll) are becoming more popular. Also there are certain standards that are being introduced into mainstream conversations including, '#' indicates the use of sarcasm in a statement and '*' which indicates a spelling mistake and/or grammatical error in the prior message, followed by a correction.[11]

Business application[edit]

Instant messaging has proven to be similar to personal computers, email, and the "World Wide Web, in that its adoption for use as a business communications medium was driven primarily by individual employees using consumer software at work, rather than by formal mandate or provisioning by corporate information technology departments. Tens of millions of the consumer IM accounts in use are being used for business purposes by employees of companies and other organizations.

In response to the demand for business-grade IM and the need to ensure security and legal compliance, a new type of instant messaging, called "Enterprise Instant Messaging" ("EIM") was created when "Lotus Software launched IBM Lotus Sametime in 1998. Microsoft followed suit shortly thereafter with "Microsoft Exchange Instant Messaging, later created a new platform called "Microsoft Office Live Communications Server, and released "Office Communications Server 2007 in October 2007. "Oracle Corporation has also jumped into the market recently with its "Oracle Beehive unified collaboration software.[12] Both IBM Lotus and Microsoft have introduced federation between their EIM systems and some of the public IM networks so that employees may use one interface to both their internal EIM system and their contacts on AOL, MSN, and Yahoo. As of 2010, leading EIM platforms include "IBM Lotus Sametime, "Microsoft Office Communications Server, Jabber XCP and Cisco Unified Presence.["third-party source needed] Industry-focused EIM platforms such as "Reuters Messaging and "Bloomberg Messaging also provide IM abilities to financial services companies.["third-party source needed]

The adoption of IM across corporate networks outside of the control of IT organizations creates risks and liabilities for companies who do not effectively manage and support IM use. Companies implement specialized IM archiving and security products and services to mitigate these risks and provide safe, secure, productive instant messaging abilities to their employees. IM is increasingly becoming a feature of "enterprise software rather than a stand-alone application.

Types of products[edit]

IM products can usually be categorised into two types: Enterprise Instant Messaging (EIM)[13] and Consumer Instant Messaging (CIM).[14] Enterprise solutions use an internal IM server, however this isn't always feasible, particularly for smaller businesses with limited budgets. The second option, using a CIM provides the advantage of being inexpensive to implement and has little need for investing in new hardware or server software.

For corporate use, encryption and conversation archiving are usually regarded as important features due to security concerns.[15] There are also a bunch of open source encrypting messengers.[16] Sometimes the use of different operating systems in organizations requires use of software that supports more than one platform. For example, many software companies use "Windows in administration departments but have software developers who use "Linux.

Serverless messengers[edit]

Major IM services are controlled by their corresponding companies. They usually follow the "client-server model when all clients have to first connect to the central server. This requires users to trust this server because messages can generally be accessed by the company. Companies can be compelled to reveal their user's communication.[17] Companies can also suspend user accounts for any reason. There is the class of instant messengers that uses the "serverless model, which doesn't require servers, and the IM network consists only of clients. There are several serverless messengers: "RetroShare, "Tox, "Bitmessage, "Ricochet, "Ring. Serverless messengers are generally more secure because they involve fewer parties.

Security risks[edit]

Secure instant messaging

Crackers (malicious or "black hat hackers) have consistently used IM networks as vectors for delivering "phishing attempts, "poison URLs", and virus-laden file attachments from 2004 to the present, with over 1100 discrete attacks listed by the IM Security Center[18] in 2004–2007. Hackers use two methods of delivering malicious code through IM: delivery of viruses, "trojan horses, or "spyware within an infected file, and the use of "socially engineered" text with a "web address that entices the recipient to click on a URL connecting him or her to a website that then downloads malicious code.

Viruses, "computer worms, and trojans usually propagate by sending themselves rapidly through the infected user's "contact list. An effective attack using a poisoned "URL may reach tens of thousands of users in a short period when each user's contact list receives messages appearing to be from a trusted friend. The recipients click on the web address, and the entire cycle starts again. Infections may range from nuisance to criminal, and are becoming more sophisticated each year.

IM connections sometimes occur in "plain text, making them vulnerable to eavesdropping. Also, IM client software often requires the user to expose open "UDP ports to the world, raising the threat posed by potential security vulnerabilities.[19]

Compliance risks[edit]

In addition to the malicious code threat, the use of instant messaging at work also creates a risk of non-compliance to laws and regulations governing use of electronic communications in businesses.

In the United States[edit]

In the United States alone there are over 10,000 laws and regulations related to electronic messaging and records retention.[20] The better-known of these include the "Sarbanes–Oxley Act, "HIPAA, and SEC 17a-3.

Clarification from the "Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) was issued to member firms in the financial services industry in December, 2007, noting that "electronic communications", "email", and "electronic correspondence" may be used interchangeably and can include such forms of electronic messaging as instant messaging and "text messaging.[21] Changes to "Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, effective December 1, 2006, created a new category for electronic records which may be requested during "discovery in legal proceedings.


Most nations also regulate use of electronic messaging and electronic records retention in similar fashion as the United States. The most common regulations related to IM at work involve the need to produce archived business communications to satisfy government or judicial requests under law. Many instant messaging communications fall into the category of business communications that must be archived and retrievable.

Security and archiving[edit]

Secure instant messaging

In the early 2000s, a new class of IT security provider emerged to provide remedies for the risks and liabilities faced by corporations who chose to use IM for business communications. The IM security providers created new products to be installed in corporate networks for the purpose of archiving, content-scanning, and security-scanning IM traffic moving in and out of the corporation. Similar to the "e-mail filtering vendors, the IM security providers focus on the risks and liabilities described above.

With rapid adoption of IM in the workplace, demand for IM security products began to grow in the mid-2000s. By 2007, the preferred platform for the purchase of security software had become the ""computer appliance", according to IDC, who estimate that by 2008, 80% of "network security products will be delivered via an appliance.[22]

By 2014 however, the level of safety offered by instant messengers was still extremely poor. According to a scorecard made by the "Electronic Frontier Foundation, only 7 out of 39 instant messengers received a perfect score, whereas the most popular instant messengers at the time only attained a score of 2 out of 7.[23][24] A number of studies have shown that IM services are quite vulnerable for providing user privacy.[25][26]

User base[edit]

List of virtual communities with more than 100 million active users

While some numbers are given by the owners of a complete instant messaging system, others are provided by commercial vendors of a part of a "distributed system. Some companies may be motivated to inflate their numbers to raise advertising earnings or attract partners, clients, or customers. Importantly, some numbers are reported as the number of active users (with no shared standard of that activity), others indicate total user accounts, while others indicate only the users logged in during an instance of peak use.

Since the "acquisitions of 2010 and later and with the wide availability of "smartphones, the "virtual communities of those "conglomerates are becoming the user base of most instant messaging services:


Instant messenger client Company Usage
"AIM "AOL, Inc 2.2 million active users (February 2015)[27]
"BlackBerry Messenger "BlackBerry 91 million total users (October 2014)[28]
"Discord Discord inc. 25 million users (December 2016)[29]
"eBuddy "eBuddy 250 million users (September 2011)[30]
"Facebook Messenger "Facebook 900 million active users (April 2016)[31]
"Gadu-Gadu GG Network S.A. 6.5 million users active daily (majority in "Poland) (June 2010)[32]
"IBM Sametime "IBM Corp. 15 million (enterprise) users (Unknown)["citation needed]
"ICQ ICQ LLC. 11 million total users (July 2014)[33]
"iMessage "Apple Inc. 140 million users (June 2012)[34]
"IMVU IMVU, inc. 1 million users (June 2007)[35]
"MXit MXit Lifestyle (Pty) Ltd.[36] 7.4 million monthly subscribers (majority in "South Africa (July 2013)[37]
"Paltalk 5.5 million monthly unique users (August 2013)[38]
"QQ "Tencent Holdings Limited 176+ million peak online users, 840+ million ""active" (Q2 2009)[39]
"Skype Microsoft Corporation 34 million peak online (February 2012),[40] 560 million total (April 2010)[41][42]
"Windows Live Messenger "Microsoft Corporation 330 million active monthly (June 2009)[43]
"Xfire Xfire, Inc. 24 million registered users (January 2014)[44]
"XMPP (Protocol used by multiple clients) "XMPP Standards Foundation 1200+ million (September 2011)[45]
"Yahoo! Messenger "Yahoo!, Inc. 22 million users (Unknown)["citation needed]
"WeChat "Tencent Holdings Limited 889 million users (2016)[46]
"Whatsapp "Facebook, Inc. 1.2 billion monthly active users (January 2017)[47]
"Line "Naver Corporation 217 million monthly active users (2016)[48]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Tom Van Vleck. "Instant Messaging on CTSS and Multics". Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  2. ^ CompuServe Innovator Resigns After 25 Years, The Columbus Dispatch, May 11, 1996, p. 2F
  3. ^ Wired and Inspired, The Columbus Dispatch (Business page), by Mike Pramik, November 12, 2000
  4. ^ "AOL Instant Messenger's Real-Time IM feature". Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  5. ^ "'s animation of real-time text". Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  6. ^ "Screenshot of a Quantum Link OLM". Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  7. ^ "Summary Of Final Decisions Issued By The Trademark Trial And Appeal Board" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  8. ^ "Important and Long Delayed News", Announcement of "Gaim renaming (to "Pidgin), April 6, 2007
  9. ^ "A Brief History of Chat Services" (PDF). 
  10. ^ "The decline of instant messaging". BBC News. May 24, 2010. 
  11. ^ instant messaging,
  12. ^ "Oracle Buzzes with Updates for its Beehive Collaboration Platform". CMSWire. May 6, 2009. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Better Business IMs - Business Technology". 2012-04-10. Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  14. ^ "Reader Questions IM Privacy at Work". 2008-03-15. Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  15. ^ Schneier, Bruce / Seidel, Kathleen / Vijayakumar, Saranya (11 February 2016). "Multi-Encrypting Messengers – in: A Worldwide Survey of Encryption Products," (PDF). Retrieved 28 March 2017. 
  16. ^ Adams, David / Maier, Ann-Kathrin (6 June 2016). "BIG SEVEN Study, open source crypto-messengers to be compared - or: Comprehensive Confidentiality Review & Audit: Encrypting E-Mail-Client & Secure Instant Messenger, Descriptions, tests and analysis reviews of 20 functions of the applications based on the essential fields and methods of evaluation of the 8 major international audit manuals for IT security investigations including 38 figures and 87 tables" (PDF). Retrieved 22 March 2017. 
  17. ^ "Skype hauled into court after refusing to hand call records to cops". "The Register. 26 May 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2017. 
  18. ^ "IM Security Center". Retrieved May 13, 2007. 
  19. ^ "Why just say no to IM at work". October 29, 2009. "ISSN 1797-1993. Retrieved October 29, 2009. 
  20. ^ "ESG compliance report excerpt, Part 1: Introduction". Retrieved May 13, 2007. 
  21. ^ FINRA, Regulatory Notice 07-59, Supervision of Electronic Communications, December 2007
  22. ^ Chris Christiansen and Rose Ryan, International Data Corp., "IDC Telebriefing: Threat Management Security Appliance Review and Forecast"
  23. ^ Stuart Dredge. "How secure is your favourite messaging app? Today's Open Thread". the Guardian. Retrieved May 16, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Secure Messaging Scorecard". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved May 16, 2015. 
  25. ^ Saleh, Saad. "IM Session Identification by Outlier Detection in Cross-correlation Functions". Conference on Information Sciences and Systems (CISS). 
  26. ^ Saleh, Saad. "Breaching IM Session Privacy Using Causality". IEEE Global Communications Conference (GLOBECOM). 
  27. ^ "AOL still has 2.2 million dialup subscribers, and they're paying more". Ars Technica. Retrieved April 4, 2017. 
  28. ^ 91 million Active BBM Users. Retrieved 6 March 2015
  29. ^ Kerr, Chris (8 December 2016). "Booming game chat app Discord intros in-game text, voice integration". Gamasutra. Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  30. ^ Data for September 2011
  31. ^ 900 million active users. Retrieved 7 April 2016
  32. ^ "Brands | Gadu Gadu". Archived from the original on March 20, 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-29. 
  33. ^ Speed, Ilya Khrennikov 2014-07-29T18:43:55Z- Comments Email Print. "ICQ Messenger Is Growing for the First Time in Years". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2017-04-04. 
  34. ^ Alexia Tsotsis. "iMessage Has More Than 140M Users And Has Sent Over 150B Messages, With Over 1B Messages Sent Per Day". TechCrunch. AOL. Retrieved May 16, 2015. 
  35. ^ "IMVU Information". Retrieved May 16, 2015. 
  36. ^ MXit federates with the Google Talk network.
  37. ^ SA Social Media Landscape 2014, World Wide Worx
  38. ^ "PalTalk: It Was "Flattering" To Be Included In The PRISM Slidedeck". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2013-08-06. PalTalk, a profitable group video chat site that’s been around for more than a decade and has about 5.5 million monthly uniques [...] 
  40. ^ "34 Million People Concurrently Online on Skype – - Skype Blogs". Skype Blogs. Retrieved May 16, 2015. 
  41. ^ Catalin Cimpanu (April 21, 2010). "Skype Flaunts 560 Million Users Figure". softpedia. Retrieved May 16, 2015. 
  42. ^ On October 24, 2012 Skype 6.0 (Liive, Raul (2012-10-24). "Skype 6.0 for Mac and Windows Desktop – - Skype Blogs". Retrieved 2013-07-11. ) connected users on Yahoo, WLM, Skype, and Facebook networks. Facebook excluded, this amounts to 83% of worldwide IM desktop client market share based on data from June 2011. ("Security Industry Market Share Analysis" (PDF). June 2011. Retrieved 2013-08-24. )
  43. ^ "Share your favorite personal Windows Live Messenger story with the world! | Inside Windows Live Messenger Archive". 2009-06-15. Retrieved 2013-07-11. 
  44. ^ "Xfire Front Page". Retrieved January 3, 2014. 
  45. ^ This number is based on the number of Facebook accounts ("500 Million Stories | Facebook". Retrieved 2013-07-11. ) Google talk and WLM accounts. ("Anyone can build a Messenger client—with open standards access via XMPP". Retrieved 2013-07-11. ) Further, as there are many other open source servers (some also with companies behind it), the number provided is probably too small. However, many of these servers are not federated, and so, do not actually interact as is usually expected of XMPP servers.
  46. ^ "WeChat: number of users 2016 | Statista". Statista. Retrieved 2017-04-21. 
  47. ^ "WhatsApp: number of users 2013-2017 | Statista". Statista. Retrieved 2017-04-21. 
  48. ^ "LINE: number of monthly active users 2016 | Statistic". Statista. Retrieved 2017-04-22. 

External links[edit]

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