instant messaging

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"Instant messaging", or "IM", refers to electronic communication wherein short text messages are sent and received in "realtime" (i.e. with a very short delay or "lag time" – usually 1 second or less – between the sending and the receipt). It most commonly refers to the various IM services such as AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, and ICQ, but can also refer to IRC.

Text-paging on a cell phone (especially if the recipient is equipped to send back a text message in reply) is also sometimes referred to as IM, but the lag time for such messaging is usually rather longer (seconds to minutes).