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Source: CyberAtlas

Posted on August 8, 2001

      Instant messaging has been one Internet application that has been almost entirely a domain of the teenage population, but some of the recent research on the topic has shown interest in instant messaging not only by adults, but interest in instant messaging as a business application.

      A survey of 300 consumers by InsightExpress (www.insightexpress.com) found that instant messaging is seen as a valuable tool in the workplace, not a distraction. The survey found that 20 percent of instant messaging occurs at the workplace and is used to get the job done, not talk to buddies.

      The InsightExpress survey also found that 47 percent of consumers say they use instant messaging. Of those, 96 percent said they use IM at home and 20 percent use it at work. Of those workers who use instant messaging at the office, 39 percent said it helps improve their job productivity. Nearly half of all respondents (49 percent) use instant messaging as a replacement for a telephone call while 35 percent use it in place of sending an e-mail.

      "Though employers are increasingly concerned about what workers are doing on the Internet, it turns out that many of them are just doing their job," said Lee Smith, COO of InsightExpress. "Instant access helps people do their jobs more efficiently than waiting for someone to call them back on the phone or find their e-mail from a week ago."

      The InsightExpress survey also found that instant messaging users use multiple services, including: AOL (56 percent), MSN (47 percent), Yahoo (32 percent), ICQ (14 percent) and others (6 percent). The services used most frequently were AOL (45 percent), MSN (29 percent), Yahoo (16 percent), ICQ (6 percent) and others (5 percent).

      "Taken as a whole these findings show instant messaging to be a growing communication tool that is fast becoming a substitute for traditional methods of communication," Smith said.

      But instant messaging's strength still lies in the Internet's younger users. Three-quarters of American middle school and high school students use the Internet and most of them have embraced instant messaging tools, according to a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project (www.pewinternet.org).

      The Pew study found that 17 million youths between ages 12 and 17 use the Internet. Thirteen million of these teenagers, 74 percent of those with Internet access, have used instant messaging. While most instant messages are innocuous chit-chat, many are socially potent. More than one-third of teens use IM to say things they don't want to say in face-to-face conversations with their peers. Seventeen percent have used IM to ask someone out and 13 percent have used IM to break up with someone.

      A Gallup (www.gallup.com) survey on e-mail use also examined IM's role on the Internet and found adults aren't likely to chat, but instead prefer e-mail. Sending and reading e-mail is the most common activity for people when online, Gallup found, much more so than searching for information, paying bills or using IM). Nine in 10 say they use e-mail at home, and more than eight in 10 say they use it at work. While a majority of e-mail users say they use the telephone and U.S. mail less often now, most are not willing to sacrifice these older methods of communication just yet.

      More than half (52 percent) of e-mail users say that sending and receiving e- mail is their most common online activity. Thirty-two percent spend most of their time online searching the Internet for information on topics that interest them. Very few make financial transactions, such as buying products, paying bills and checking financial accounts (4 percent), or send and receive Instant Messages (2 percent) more often than they send e-mail or search for information.

      The Gallup survey found that use of IMs among adults is quite rare. A majority of respondents, 58 percent, say they never use IMs when online. About one in three use IMs occasionally, 8 percent do so frequently, and only 3 percent use IMs every time they are online.

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