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Instant messaging and chat applications offer two or more people the ability to communicate in real-time over the internet. Instant messaging (IM) software generally implies text-based communication and differentiates from email in that it is instantaneous and provides a real-time, continuous stream of messages, rather than back and forth messaging. Along with text chat, many popular IM apps also offer voice, video chat, and even screen sharing.
In addition to standalone instant messaging and chat applications there are also many project collaboration and enterprise social networking applications that include instant messaging and chat as a main feature. These often include group chat rooms for specific teams and projects, as well as 1-to-1 private instant messaging. There are also many VoIP (voice over IP), video conferencing and online meetings apps that include the ability to send instant text messages.
Common features of instant messaging apps include the ability to see which users are online and available for chat. They will also include noise alerts when someone initiates a conversation as well as notifications of attempted chat conversations for offline users. You should also be able to record and archive chat conversations and search your conversation history for keywords. Instant messaging for businesses will often include the ability to share files and other content, as well as to give guest access to clients, vendors, and other third-parties.