How to Use Instant Messaging - dummies

How to Use Instant Messaging

By Faithe Wempen

Instant messaging (often called just IMing) is the process of exchanging text-based messages in real-time over a computer in a one-on-one conversation (usually, although it is possible to invite multiple people to the same conversation). To do it, you use an instant messaging service such as Yahoo! Messenger or AOL Instant Messenger.

Instant messaging is a lot like Simple Mail Service (SMS) text messaging on a cell phone except it is sent over the Internet rather than via cell phone.

To try out Yahoo! Messenger, download the Yahoo! IM client software. (It’s free.) Then install it, create an account if you don’t have one already, and you’re off and running. To add someone as a contact, open the Contacts menu and choose Add Contact. Then to have a conversation with someone on your Contacts list, double-click their name and type a greeting in the message window that opens.


IM is ideal for quick, little messages where you just want an answer without forming a formal email, as well as for touching base and saying hi. This isn’t a tool you’d typically use for a long, meaningful conversation, but it’s great for quick exchanges.

Instant messages go through a central server maintained by the company that owns the service you are using. Instant messaging services are usually free to the user; the costs are paid by advertisers. Instant message conversations may be logged (saved), but are not necessarily so by default, so this is not the best medium for preserving important conversational records.

Some IM services blur the line between IM and other more sophisticated communication forms such as video chatting. Yahoo! Instant Messenger, for example, offers both webcam and audio chat capabilities as well as text-based communication.