Categorized | Instant Messaging

Hardware and Software 3.14. Instant Messaging

The Internet allows you several communications alternatives that can significantly reduce or eliminate your phone bills. Aside from email, you can communicate to anyone offsite using your Internet-connected PC through three main methods:

  • Instant Messaging (IM)—Instant Messaging allows you to send text messages instantly to other people’s computers, provided they are connected to the same instant messaging service you are.

3.14.1. AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)

AOL Instant Messenger was one of the first IM services and is one of the largest with over 60 million users. Like all instant messengers, AIM is a stand-alone application that you have to install on your computer and start as a separate application. The current beta (test) version installs on Windows Vista, Windows CE (PDAs and cell phones), Mac OSX, and Linux; the actual current version (6.1) is Vista “compliant,” whatever that means. The service offers instant messaging, chat rooms, audio chat (VoIP), file sharing, contact management, and, with AIM Pro, WebEx Web conferencing (see 3.7.5), video conferencing, high security, and desktop and file sharing.

One distinguishing feature about AIM is that it allows users to add “buddies” to their contact list without approval from those “buddies.” Other services will notify users that other users have added them to their contact list and give them the option to block those users. Not AIM. This means that other users can know that you’re online without you being aware of it.

For those who cannot download or install AIM on their computers, AOL offers AIM Express, which allows users to send text messages through a Web browser.

AIM Express supports many of the IM features included in the stand-alone application, but does not provide advanced features like file transfer, audio chat, or video conferencing.

3.14.2. Yahoo! Messenger

Yahoo! Messenger is a popular, free instant messaging and VoIP application and protocol provided by Yahoo!. The current version, 8.1, is fully compatible with Windows Vista. You sign on to Yahoo! Messenger by creating a Yahoo! ID, which also gives you access to Yahoo! Mail. The instant messaging service provides:

  • Instant messaging
  • PC-to-PC phone calls (VoIP)
  • File transfers (up to one GB)
  • Chat rooms
  • Radio stations
  • Stealth mode: you appear only to select people on the network

Yahoo! is also part of MSN’s instant messaging networks which means that its instant messaging service is compatible with Windows Live Messenger (MSN); it also means Windows Live Messenger is compatible with Yahoo! So there’s no need to join different messenger services to IM different people.

3.14.3. MSN (Windows Live Messenger)

Windows Live Messenger (WLM) 8.1 is a freeware instant messaging application for Microsoft Windows Vista that accesses the IM and chat resources on MSN. The business version is called Communicator and comes standard with higher versions of Office. Any computer with an Internet connection, Vista, and Internet Explorer can connect to the Messenger Service by using MSN Web Messenger or one of the unofficial equivalents. The latest version of WLM optimized for Vista enables you to use emoticons, pictures, and send short messages to cell phones. WLM is also compatible with Yahoo Messenger for sending voice messages.

3.14.4. Jabber

The self-styled “Linux of instant messaging,” Jabber uses XML (a markup language that classifies data into logical groups) as the basis of an open source, standards-compliant instant messenger. As with all instant messenger applications, you can communicate with anyone connected to a Jabber server.

The Jabber network is based on servers, that is, your computer does not talk directly to someone else’s computer; instead all messages are routed through a server. However, the Jabber network is decentralized. There is no central server as there is with AOL Messenger, Yahoo!, or WLM. This is significant, because it allows you to run your own instant messaging service just by setting up a server. In fact, since instant messengers are free, all the open source, free, and standardized virtues of Jabber are only relevant if you want to set up your own server.

Many IM services use Jabber, such as Chikka, EarthLink, Gizmo Project, and Google Talk.

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