Instant Messaging

Table of Contents:

  • Definition
  • Description
  • Use of IM
  • Benefits of IM
  • Risks of IM
  • Conclusion
  • References


Instant Messaging or IM is a type of communication which helps you to chat privately between you and other individual over the internet in chat room. It is similar like telephone conversation but using text based instead of voice based. It always alerts you when some friend of yours is online but only if he is added on your private list. Then you can chat to him if you like. There are many types of popular services, such as AOL, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and Apple's iChat now allow voice messaging, file sharing and even video chat when both users have cameras.


In order to send and receive instant messages, a user must sign-up for an IM account. There are several web-based programs online that offer free IM accounts. When choosing a program, keep in mind that some are compatible with each other, while others are not; this is important as users will want to choose programs that are compatible with those whom they will be communicating. Most, if not all, programs require users to create a user name that will be an identification tag for sending and receiving messages, and additional personal information can be added if the user so wishes. Once the account is established, users should tell friends, family, and coworkers their new screen name so that the IM can begin.

Use of IM

Microsoft spokesman Monte Enbysk has written a details instruction of using instant messaging service. He said:

"1. DO: Adopt a user policy for instant messaging. If you're an owner, your employees need to know whether you view instant messaging as an appropriate vehicle to communicate with, say, customers or business partners. Any policy should contain at least general guidelines for its use.

2. DON'T: Use instant messaging to communicate confidential or sensitive information. If your company is in the business of providing professional advice regarding stocks, finances, medicine, or law, chances are it's not smart to do so through instant messaging. IM is better suited to quick information about project status, meeting times, or a person's whereabouts.

3. DO: Organize your contact lists to separate business contacts from family and friends. Contact lists, also known as "buddy lists," contain your menu of potential recipients for instant messages. Keep your business contacts separate from family and friends. Make sure your employees do the same. Eliminate even the remote possibility that a social contact could be included in a business chat with a partner or customer—or vice versa.

4. DON'T: Allow excessive personal messaging at work. Yes, you make personal phone calls at work, send personal e-mails, and allow your employees to do the same. But you encourage them to keep it to a minimum and (hopefully) do the same yourself. For instant messaging, go even further. Urge that personal chats be done during breaks or the lunch hour—or that the chats generate new customers or revenue to the business.

5. DO: Be aware that instant messages can be saved. You may think IM is great because you can let your guard down, make bold statements, chastise a boss, employee, or co-worker, and have it all wiped away from the record when you are done. What you aren't realizing is that one of the parties to your conversation can copy and paste the entire chat onto a Notepad or Word document. Some IM services allow you to archive entire messages. Bottom line: Be careful what you say, just as you would in an e-mail.

6. DON'T: Compromise your company's liability, or your own reputation. Statements you make in IM about other people, your company, or other companies probably aren't going to land you in court. But they could damage your reputation or credibility, or your company's. Again, be careful what you say.

7. DO: Be aware of virus infections and related security risks. Most IM services allow you to transfer files with your messages. Alexis D. Gutzman, an author and e-business consultant, says her research for a book found that IM file attachments carrying viruses penetrate firewalls more easily than e-mail attachments. "Instant messages [carrying viruses] will run and dip into a firewall until they find an opening," she says. If you collaborate on documents for your business, file transfer is important. You'd be wise to learn more about the quality of your own firewall protection, to decide whether or not to restrict transferring files through IM.

8. DON'T: Share personal data or information through instant messaging. Even if you have the utmost trust in the person or people you are messaging, including personal information such as a password or credit card number, even a phone number you'd rather keep confidential, is not a good idea. That's because the text of your chat is relayed to a Web server en route to your contact. If an IM provider employee or even a hacker is on the connection and can see that traffic, they can see the personal information. A long shot, perhaps. But better to send such info through an encrypted e-mail, or not at all.

9. DO: Keep your instant messages simple and to the point, and know when to say goodbye. How you should use instant messaging is hard to stipulate. Some people prefer it simply for seeing if a colleague is at his or her desk, available for an in-person or telephone call. Gutzman, on the other hand, sees IM as a way to do quick research and get fast information from consultants and even lawyers. She recently used IM in researching a book, saving entire messages in her personal archives. Both agree, however, that you must limit your inquiry, get to the point right away, and avoid unnecessary blather. "With instant messaging, you don't need a lot of pleasantries," Gutzman says. "I pretty much can say, 'How's it going?' and then get on with my question."

10. DON'T: Confuse your contacts with a misleading user name or status. IM user names, like e-mail user names, should be consistent throughout your company. And users should have the courtesy to update their status throughout the day, so contacts know whether they are available for messages or offline."

Benefits of IM

Instant messaging is more private than a typical chat room, because the user must invite others to join, as opposed to chat rooms where anyone is welcome to join the conversation. IM is a much faster and simpler way to communicate than using email because message is sent immediately and the receive does not have to log in to read it. Since instant messagingallows users to communicate in real-time, users can respond quickly to questions or comments. Instant messaging is a great way to stay in touch with family members and friends while saving money on long distance phone bills.

Risks of IM

As with any online activity, caution should be exercised with messaging. It is not a good idea to add people to the invite list unless the user knows something about them. Children should be supervised carefully when instant messaging and should never add someone to their list or agree to be added to anyone else's list without approval from their legal guardian. Predators have been known to use instant messaging as well as chat rooms to seek out victims, so while IM may seem safer, it is not without risks.
It is also possible to obtain viruses, worms, and Trojan horses through messaging, so care should be taken when accepting any files. Also, don't type anything that shouldn't be shared with others, since instant messages can be captured and the text can be saved and passed on. Even though messaging sessions seem private, they are really not any more secure than the average email; identity thefts can still get a hold of personal information through instant messages. Instant messaging can be a convenient way to communicate, but like anything else, it should be used with care.


Instant messaging is an easy and convenient way of communication. Most of the young people are getting the habit of communicating each other via IM. As we discussed earlier about the risks of IM so we need to consider these issues before using IM. Children and young people need to use this in a limited manner. We are in the age of technology so we must get used with the new technologies e.g. IM but at the same time we have to maintain our ethics of using technology.


[Enbysk, M, 2011], "10 tips for using instant messaging for business" [online] in Microsoft Business. Available from: [accessed Thursday, 8th March 2012]
Good. It needs a table of contents toc though and some refs would be good :-)

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