Instant Messaging: The Past, Present & Future

When we here instant messaging nowadays, all that really comes to mind is WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. These messaging apps have been literal life savers when keeping in touch with friends and family distant and near. When we urgently need to talk to that one person or tell your group that urgent thing that happened today these apps have been there at your service. Instantly sending those all-important messages to those all-important contacts. Whilst instant messaging is common today, just two decades ago chatting with friends and even strangers online was such a revolutionary concept.

However, “instant” messaging hasn't always been that instant. Let's go way back to 1961when MIT gave us our first taster of real-time chat or as we know it now instant messaging. MIT had a Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) which helped pioneer instant messaging by allowing up to 30 users to chat in real time. This was the first-time instant messaging seemed like a possibility. However, instant messaging didn’t become popular until the late 1980s when Internet Relay Chat (IRC) managed to allow its users to connect to networks with a client software to chat with groups in real-time. In 1961, we saw that we could chat to individuals in real-time but IRC allowed users to chat with groups in real-time.

It wasn’t until the late 1990s that Instant Messaging systems became popular and widely used by the general population. The first widely used messaging service was AOL Instant Messenger or AIM, which was created in 1997, this was more popular in North America which held 52% of AIM’s instant messaging market. After this, year after year new instant messaging services were brought to the market. AIM was followed by Yahoo!

Messenger, then came every 90s child’s all-time favourite messenger MSN Messenger. By 2005 MSN Messenger was shooting up in popularity and had roughly 2.5 billion messages being sent each day! MSN was the one thing every teenager looked forward to as they went home from school. MSN users used to have conversations in emoticons before emojis even existed. From getting friends to check if your crush was online because you were scared that they blocked you or going offline and then coming back on so your name would appear on your crush's MSN so they know you are online or TyPinG LiKe tHIs MSN is the one thing teenagers miss the most. 
Sadly, MSN started to die out the moment Apple launched iChat, this was compatible with AIM so those who were still using AIM began transitioning over to iChat. As the 2000s began we rolled out with more instant instant messaging if that is possible. Skype allowed us not only to communicate via instant messaging, but it gave us the chance to chat with our mates via voice calls and video calls. This was a breakthrough, as it allowed us to call friends without having to wait at the home phone to talk to them. Skype allowed us to talk via computer. 

Up until 2006, all these instant messaging platforms were individual platforms that we had to download separately to use. MySpace was the first social network to launch its own instant messaging platform on its social media platform. MySpaceIM was soon overpowered in popularity within two years as Facebook Chat was released. Now we know this as Facebook Messenger, the decoupled app from the main Facebook app. This had accelerated the growth of Messenger's user base. Remember Blackberry's? The phones that have just disappeared, I remember when everyone around me had some sort of Blackberry and they were constantly on BBM pinging each other to get their attention or just to annoy the other person. 

Now for the instant messaging application we all know and love – WhatsApp. WhatsApp was a startup brought to us in 2009. This startup allows users to send texts, pictures, video and audio messages all for free, this is what appealed to the mass market who were tired of paying for SMS. WhatsApp is now updating and bringing in all new features like, WhatsApp Call and WhatsApp Video call allowing users to connect with friends and family who are abroad for free at the comfort of their own home. 

More and more apps are being brought into the market, from Snapchat to Viber to Slack all these applications are the upcoming new instant messaging services for us to use, from making life sharing and memory sharing easier to making calls abroad cheap and affordable but with great quality, these apps are the future generation of Instant Messaging Services.