In our fast-paced world, sometimes even the rapid response of e-mail is not fast enough. You have no way of knowing if the person you are sending e-mail to is online at that particular moment or not. Also, if you are sending multiple e-mails back and forth with the same person, you normally have to click through a few steps to read, reply and send the e-mail. This is why instant messaging (IM) has gained popularity.
Instant messaging allows you to maintain a list of people that you wish to interact with. You can send messages to any of the people in your list, often called a buddy list or contact list, as long as that person is online. Sending a message opens up a small window where you and your friend can type in messages that both of you can see.
Most of the popular instant-messaging programs provide a variety of features:
- Instant messages - Send notes back and forth with a friend who is online
- Chat - Create your own custom chat room with friends or co-workers
- Web links - Share links to your favorite Web sites
- Images - Look at an image stored on your friend's computer
- Sounds - Play sounds for your friends
- Files - Share files by sending them directly to your friends
- Talk - Use the Internet instead of a phone to actually talk with friends
- Streaming content - Real-time or near-real-time stock quotes and news
Although AIM and ICQ are the leaders in the IM race, there are several other worthy entrants. Microsoft recently introduced MSN Explorer, an incredibly versatile suite of utilities that includes instant messaging.
No instant messaging service is totally secure. Those that provide encryption are still not unbreakable, because they control the algorithm. Most save messages on their central server that can be looked at later by anyone that has access or by court order.
Trillian is everything you need for instant messaging. Connect to ICQ AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and IRC in a single, sleek and slim interface. And if both users on an IM conversation are using Trillian, it automatically can be set to encrypt all messages. It is what we use on all of our office computers.