RealTime IT News

IM Use Is Surging, Says (IM Provider) AOL

The popularity of instant messaging continued to grow this year, as many Americans embraced the technology both for personal and business purposes, according to a survey released today.

Instant messaging use increased 19 percent over last year, and in fact appears to be gaining ground on the granddaddy of Internet communication -- email, as users are sending as many if not more IMs, according to the third annual Instant Messaging Trends Survey from the number one provider of IM, America Online .

"People have found instant messaging more immediate, and as effective as email," said Chamath Palihapitiya, vice president and general manager of AOL's AIM and ICQ divisions.

In the corporate world more users are finding IM indispensible too, as 58 percent of instant message users say they communicate with colleagues via the medium, while 28 percent said they also used IM to interact with clients or customers. Twelve percent have used IM at work to avoid a difficult in-person conversation, the study showed.

Meanwhile, mobile messaging is continuing to move into the mainstream, as one-third of all IM users send mobile IMs or text messages from their cell phones at least once a week, according to the study. In 2004, that number was 19 percent and in 2003 only 10 percent.

"Instant messaging is a part of everyday life, with more and more people using their IM service as a starting point for all communications, from sending mobile messages to friends on cell phones to placing VoIP-based phone calls," Palihapitiya said.

According to IDC Research, among those who use instant messaging for business purposes, 13 percent say they have their IM screen name printed on their business card, while 6 percent said they write it on the business cards they exchange.

While Palihapitiya noted the increasing reliance on IM as the first option of online communications -- 38 percent of all users said they send as many or more IMs than emails -- he said the next generation of users will continue to find new applications useful for instant messaging systems.

"It is great to hear the younger generations user base is rallying around VoIP to make telephone calls," he said, adding that AOL will finalize a new VoIP service at the beginning of next year.

The number of users preferring instant messaging increases as the survey hits on younger targets. Two-thirds, or 66 percent, of teens and young adults (ages 13-21) say they send more IMs than e-mails, up from 49 percent last year.

"Usage is spiking, and not just among teens," Palihapitiya said. "Parents, grandparents and professionals are all using instant messaging to stay in touch and enhance their day-to-day communications."

Instant messaging is also making inroads into the entertainment sector, with 25 percent of users saying they would like to see entertainment content within IM, according to the study.

Palihapitiya said AIM TV would also continue to grow as instant messaging becomes a more common tool.