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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Chat lovers embrace world of IM

By Burt Lum

Eight years ago, Internet Relay Chat or IRC was one of the few programs that allowed people to send text messages to one another.

It was a clumsy interface that was prone to abuse by online hacks. Unsuspecting users could get blown off the system by codes sent by malicious chatters and bots.

As chat programs became more secure, it was still problematic to follow a conversation when there were multiple threads going simultaneously. It was like being in a room with 10 people all talking at once.

This frustration ushered in the world of Instant Messaging or IM.

In this environment you send messages to a buddy and can then establish a one-on-one chat session. With this improvement, the popularity of IM skyrocketed.

My first IM program was ICQ (web.icq.com). Back in May 1997, ICQ dominated, reaching 1 million registered users. Others took notice and now all the big boys have IM software. There's Yahoo! Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and MSN Messenger. In fact, AOL, appreciating the popularity of IM, acquired ICQ in 1998.

For a while I thought that I was satisfied with my original ICQ, but recent performance instabilities compelled me to try other programs. Consequently, I downloaded Yahoo! Messenger and AIM.

Then an online buddy of mine pointed me to several programs that support the various IM platforms simultaneously.

The first is Jabbernaut at jabbernaut.com. This program enables you to send messages to buddies on ICQ, Yahoo! and MSN.

Another multi-platform messenger is Fire at epicware.com/fire.html. This is specifically for users with the latest Mac OSX operating system.

Windows users can check out Odigo at odigo.org. Odigo sports a cool interface, a cross between the Palace and ICQ.

Cell phones have Short Message Service (SMS), and the IM apps are also getting ported over to WAP phones and PDAs. The popularity of IM is undeniably here to stay. ;-)

Burt Lum, cyber-citizen and self-anointed tour guide to the Internet frontier, is one click away at burt@brouhaha.net.