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Ubuntu® 8.10 Linux® Bible by William von Hagen

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Chapter 13. Sending and Receiving Instant Messages

E-mail has revolutionized how people communicate today. E-mail is the carrier of most business communications, replacing paper memos, faxes, and most information-sharing meetings, and enabling geographically disparate offices and personnel to keep in touch and know what each is doing. E-mail has revolutionized personal communications, too. Thanks to e-mail, I've been able to maintain friendships that would otherwise have atrophied because I'm not the best letter writer or snail mail user. I can send e-mail at any time, from any computer, and know that it will be waiting for the recipient after a very short time.

"Waiting for the recipient" identifies a key shortcoming of e-mail. E-mail was designed as an asynchronous communications mechanism, and does a great job at that. I can send you e-mail and you can respond at your convenience. Unfortunately, "at your convenience" isn't always good enough. If I have an extra ticket to a baseball game that starts in a few hours, I need to know whether you want it now. If you send an instant message to someone who is running an instant messaging client, they are usually alerted that a new message has come in—you don't have to wait for them to get around to checking their mail. A related issue is that e-mail isn't really conversation-oriented. If I send ...

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