According to a BBC magazine article from last year, online chat is dead, or at least the use of Instant Messaging (IM) tools like Google Chat or Yahoo Messenger is declining rapidly. I wonder how much further the decline has continued in the past year as other tools have taken off?
In 2007, fourteen per cent of all time spent online by British people was on IM platforms, but that has declined to just 5 per cent in 2010. What is going on?
It’s a fact that social networks and microblogs such as Twitter have replaced the need for IM in a lot of situations. Twitter has evolved from a microblog into more of a continuous online conversation that can be curated by selecting who you want to follow.
But there is still hope for IM in some scenarios. Companies are still active users of IM tools, with the main enterprise email platforms, Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, both supporting IM within a corporate network. IM works really well inside a company – you can see if your colleagues are available to talk and you can often use a quick chat message rather than a more intrusive telephone call.
And IM built into websites is becoming more and more popular too. It’s not the open IM we are used to with the messenger type tools, but Facebook demonstrates a good example of including an IM tool that allows users to chat to each other instead of mailing messages. This concept also works well with websites that are selling products – IM can be included on the site, allowing a browser (potential customer!) to immediately chat to a human representative of the company. That interaction can be crucial for closing sales and gives an improved user experience of the website.