If you are new to the internet or just computers in general, then you may be a little confused about what instant messaging or chat is. Below, is a generic explanation to help clear up any questions you may have.
Instant messaging or chat is a way of communicating with others on a real time basis and is text based. This form of communication can take place on a one on one basis or between more than two people at a time. This is usually done via the use of a personal computer that has access to the internet but can also be used with other mobile devices such as a cell phone. There is also software available that can provide a more advanced form of communication such as video calling; however, if you are just starting out then this will be something to research at a later date.
Instant messaging is also known as IM and is generically termed as “online chat”. There are slight differences however; IM is usually based upon people that have specific users, such as contact or friend lists. Online chat allows anyone to communicate with each other and does not require you to add someone to a list. This type of chat is typically found on social or gaming websites and is an excellent way to find new friends worldwide. One thing to bear in mind is that both of these forms of communication are entirely different to other internet based technologies such as email; with email the communication is not “instant” and you are also able to view messages when offline.
When using instant messaging or chat there are a multitude of other things you can do, if you happen to have a web cam then you can actually see the other person that you are talking to. There are many software programs that will allow you to speak with someone real time with the use of a microphone or head phones and will even allow you to send files to the person you are talking to. This is great if you have a family member that lives on the other side of the world and you want to send them pictures instantly. Do bear in mind however, that in most cases you will have to be connected to the internet and the software program you are using in order to do this.