Several years ago, before the advent of the telephone, the easiest way for human beings to communicate with one another was face to face. There were other means too such as the use of signs and symbols but none of them could compare with face to face communication. Bear in mind that it was the easiest but not the fastest.
Imagine the stress of travelling a thousand miles just to say 50 sentences. The effort is so not worth the talk. However, human beings in their constant search for growth and development created the telephone as a faster, easier and more convenient means of communication. With the advent of the telephone came several chatting applications and services such that, millions of messages could now be transmitted at once, far and wide within a very short time frame.
One such service is instant messaging and that is our focus in this article. By the end of this piece, you would know what instant messaging is, how it works, the dangers involved and lot more so let us get right into it.
What is Instant Messaging?
Instant Messaging, as implied by its name is an internet service responsible for the simple, easy and instant sending of messages from one user to another user of such service. You could also call it a text conversation between more than one person in an internet chatroom with the aid of their mobile devices or other electronic communication devices. Now, how exactly does this service function?
How does Instant Messaging Work?
Before we talk about how it works, you should first of all know how it started.
Starting out, there were a few major internet services such as AOL, short for America Online, CompuServe and Prodigy. These were some of the ways people could pass information back and forth several decades ago. In the early 1990s, a survey was carried out and it was discovered that 80% of people spend more time on the internet either working or chatting. Still, chatting services was not at its best until November 1996 when ICQ (I seek you) came on the scene.
ICQ, an instant messaging service that makes use of a software application called Client. This application was free of charge and anyone could easily use it. This so called Client usually resides on any electronic device where ICQ is installed and from then till now, the ICQ model has been used as a precedent for majority of the instant messaging applications. So, using this “Client” to illustrate, here is how instant messaging works.
First of all, you need to go and download a copy of the application software ‘client’ on your computer. The next step is to install client and open it on your electronic device after which the client connects to the server using a proprietary protocol.
Once connection to the server is complete from the client, you enter your name and password to sign up for the server. After this first time, you’ll now be required to login with your details on your subsequent visits. Once you are verified, you are instantly logged in.
The client will now send the server your other connection information such as the number of ports, the names of people in your contact list and IP ADDRESS of the computer you are using. The names of people will reflect on your device.
The server creates one temporary file that will house the connection information and the list of contacts for you. It will also find out if any of the users in your contact are logged in. In the event that they are logged in, the server sends a message to the client with the contact info of that user and the same is done with your contact info to people in your contact list that are online.
You can click on the name of any person in your contact list you wish to chat with and a window immediately opens for you to enter your text into. After typing your message, you must click on send if you want it to be delivered to the other party.
Since your client software has the port number and IP ADDRESS of the computer or other device of the person that you are sending the message to, your message will be sent directly to the client software on that person’s device meaning the server is no longer involved at this point because communication is now occurring just between the two client software.
The other party received your instant message and replies. As the conversation is getting longer, the window becomes longer so you can scroll up and down to see previous messages and reply present messages.
When you are done conversing, you can close the message window, go offline and exit. Once you do this, the other user will be noticed immediately too. It is that simple but are there some dangers involved with instant messaging work.
Dangers of Instant Messaging
As much as IM has its many benefits, there are still a number of downsides:
Noncompliance for workplace protocol
It can make employees of a workplace start passing inappropriate content, personal information and even using hostile language. This kind of act will only result in extreme decreased productivity and even sexual or other types of harassment which in turn, will give birth to several lawsuits. The best thing for companies to do when it comes to workplace communication is to create a policy for IM in the workplace usage as well as warning policies for non-compliant employees.
It should be known that instant messaging systems can allow anybody at all to create anonymous or fake identities that do not correlate with an email address. It is bad to the extent that Identification cards of other individuals can be created without the knowledge of the real owner. In fact, the domain and Identification of the owner does not need to be owned or be in possession of the crook before he creates the fake.
Leak of Data Security
One of the key downsides to Instant messaging is the fact that several files or documents (small or large) can be transferred without any trace. Once info is sent out, even the tracking capabilities of the IT department will prove futile because the technology behind Instant messaging is not advanced up to the extent whereby it can filter and reject messages or files that can put a company in trouble, let’s say by leaking their secrets. So any information that needs to be sent out must be filtered or verified by the IT Department or whoever is in charge to make sure that everything is intact.
Due to the fact that information passed across on Instant messaging cannot be filtered, a lot of spam messages find their ways into the emails of users across the world. A study once showed that out of every 10 emails in a week, at least 2 of them must be spam. These are very annoying and inappropriate messages but you can actually block them from coming in.
As impenetrable as you might think Instant messaging services are, they are actually very prone to virus attacks. A recent research carried out showed that during the course of six months, out of the top 50 viruses that crept into people’s computer or other mobile device, 19 of them used Instant Messaging applications to carry out their act. These viruses can be easily sent when transferring files thereby bypassing security or any other form of check. The best way to avoid viruses is to check and double check whatever file someone might want to send to you.
New Instant Messaging Innovations
What are some of the top and latest instant messaging innovations in town? Before there was nothing like File Sharing, just the normal hey-hi chatting method but now almost all the IM services offer file sharing. In fact, Google has now incorporated Instant Messaging Services into their email service making it easier for their users to receive email notifications even while using instant messaging. MSN also followed suit.
Most of the IM providers now allow their users to share files while instant messaging from about anywhere in the world and at any time as long as there is network. If you use Google Talk, there is a function that allows you to archive your conversations, drag folders and files to the chat, pick pictures, send it out to another and even more. In fact, Windows Live Messenger has been programmed to allow instant messaging between Xbox 360 gamers.
With superb personalization capabilities, IMers can now fully customize personal icons, greetings and user interface. This same Windows Live Messenger along with Google talk and other IM programs now allow users do something known as Voice note and Video Call where you can record yourself saying something and send it to them for the former and even see them face to face while on phone for the latter.
Free Instant Messaging Services
There are a lot of top-notch yet free instant messaging services up in the market today that aim to deliver quality services to customers and some of them include:-
- Google Hangouts
- Cisco Jabber
- Ring Central Glip
- Yahoo Messenger
- WhatsApp Messenger
In conclusion, instant messaging has done more good than harm to the general population of human beings and there is definitely no way you can live in this century or Jet age of ours without making use of these services as they offer convenience, ease of access, reliability, swiftness and many more. As discussed, it also has its dangers which if effectively managed tend not to be much trouble in the long run.