Unfortunately, the simple concept of instant messaging and easy communication now resembles a certain tower in Babel: Different companies have released mutually incompatible instant messaging programs. Microsoft's got one that doesn't communicate with America Online's; Yahoo's IM program doesn't work with Microsoft's, and so on.
So which program should you use? That depends entirely upon on who you want to chat with: You and your friend both need the same messaging program to communicate.
The simplest solution is for you and your pals to agree on the same program. But if you agree to disagree, you can always run several IM programs simultaneously on your PC; that way, you can talk to everybody. With all that in mind, the next section gives you an introduction to the biggest instant messaging programs.
If you're a fanatic about instant messaging but can't get all your friends onto one service (and don't want all the clutter of three IM programs on your desktop), try Trillian (http://www.trillian.cc ). Trillian lets you talk to folks who use AIM, ICQ (a play on the words, "I seek you"), MSN Messenger, Windows Messenger, and Yahoo IM—all in the same window. For other multi-service IM solutions, see the box in Section 15.2.7.
If people tend to pick their IM programs based on what their friends use, then America Online Instant Messenger (AIM) is a very friendly place indeed. By early 2006, AIM had amassed 42 million members in the U.S. alone, busily ...