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If you’re reading this then you are on the internet- why? The internet was once the hideaway of geeks across the land, but now we all use in for this, that and tother (namely a little known site called ciao.com). So what on earth do we use it for? Shopping yes, researching yes, but the main reason for internet usage is communication, through emails, discussion forums, chat rooms and of course instant messaging programmes.
An instant messaging programme is a programme that enables you to set up a mini chat room with yourself and a friend, or friends. You type in a message and it pops up on their screen, they type a reply and it pops up on your screen. Quick, simple and “cool”. By far and away the most popular such programme is MSN Messenger and I must confess I waste many hours MSNing (so I ought to be in a good position to write an op on it)!
Upon signing in to MSN Messenger (hereafter referred to as MSN) you will be greeted by a list of between 0 and 65 “contacts”. These contacts are your friends and they will either have a little red thing to the left of their name (whatever usually rather stupid name they choose to go by) meaning they’re offline, or a little green thing meaning they’re online and you can talk to them!
Sending an instant message is easy; you simply right click on the name of an online contact and type the message. This is displayed in a little box and then you wait for a reply, which also appears in the box. A conversation ensues, be it exciting or otherwise, until either you’ve had enough and log off or you get disconnected. If your contact does this then you will receive a little message telling you that he/she is having networking problems and may not have received your last few messages. This roughly translates as your ex-friend has p*ssed off because you’ve bored them silly.
~The Advantages Of MSN Messenger~
Firstly and foremostly it allows you to stay in touch with your friends for free; although any instant messenger can do this MSN is the one that your friends are most likely to have, as it is by far and away the most popular programme. I also failed to mention earlier that you can up to six contacts in one chat “room”, so you don’t have to type your gossip out in six separate boxes!
Then there are the nice little features when chatting itself. At the bottom of the box it tells you who is typing, so that you can avoid interrupting your friends. You can have different font types, colours and sizes and you can create little symbols (e.g. J makes a nice little smiley face, (f) a flower and (b) a pint of beer)! You can also send and receive files (and you get politely asked if you wish to receive them or not) and can engage in voice conversations if you have a microphone, although being as my microphone hasn’t been working for as long as I can remember then I can’t tell you how effective this is.
Other options (outside of the chat box) include call a contact (only US or Can?), send a message to a mobile device (sadly I think this is now only available to people in the US or Canada), send an email and send an invitation to join a network game. Obviously the US/Can bit on calls/SMS is irritating but I guess it’s an advantage if you live over there, hence the inclusion in this section of the op!
Of course the main advantage of MSN is that it is a simple, friendly, easy-to-use interface. To add a contact simply click add and type in their email address, to chat to somebody just right click and “send an instant message”, and there isn’t really much else to it. Of course no opinion on MSN would be complete without mentioning the “status options”. Rather than simply being online you can, should you feel antisocial and only wish to chat to one person, or perhaps for a more genuine reason, claim to be “Busy”, “Be Right Back”, “On The Phone”, “Away”, “Out To Lunch” and “Appear Offline”, the later meaning that you do not appear as online on other people’s contact lists. Unfortunately you cannot chat to anybody while you have this selected, so it is simply for if you wish to wait for somebody else to come online without being bombarded by over-eager friends wishing to chat.
~The Disadvantages Of MSN Messenger~
Following on from the advantages here… it would be better if you were able to “appear offline” and still chat to people, as it would stop the aforementioned over-eager friends from trying to chat with you (20 conversations at once is highly impractical). Also free phone calls and SMS (text) messaging to mobile phones in the UK would be a distinct improvement.
Otherwise there are the endless “new versions” to download that don’t seem to change anything at all but automatically restart your computer when complete (grrrr) and of course there are the times when you try to login and MSN is too busy (“try again later”). Perhaps though all the “new versions” have increased the capacity because this seems to happen less frequently of late (or perhaps I’ve just avoided trying to connect at peak times)!
The final disadvantage is not one unique to MSN, but a fundamental problem with the whole concept of instant messaging. The trouble is that there are often long, prolonged silences where nobody can think of anything to say. This doesn’t seem to happen in the real world, so why does it happen in cyberspace? The problem is that in real world you have something common to relate to (eg “look that bird over there she’s got one beautiful backside”) but when cyber-chatting you are sitting in different locations eyes fixed on a computer screen and there is nothing much too talk about. So, when the conversation stops, it stops! (NB this effect is less when drunk).
~A Quick Note About Signing Up~
So, you’ve read the op and you want to get this MSN Messenger thingy. Well, first of all you need to get a “passport” and the easiest way to do this is to get a hotmail email address (www.hotmail.com and follow new user instructions). Then visit www.msn.co.uk/specials/messengerservice/default.asp and click “download MSN messenger”. Follow any installation instructions, agree to the terms & conditions and start chatting! Couldn’t be easier.
MSN Messenger is probably the best instant messaging service around and it is certainly the most popular. It does have its faults but its easy to use interface and a few nice graphics (notably emoticons) make it worthwhile and relatively hassle-free (i.e. heaven to computer users). Only the fundamental difficulties of instant messaging make me cautious enough not to award it 5/5 stars; I recommend it to people of all ages who can type reasonably well (and if you can’t don’t worry you’ll improve quickly) and have the most basic of computer skills (namely the ability to use the mouse). Happy chatting!
Oh and just in case any of my friends read this you're all very interesting really! ;)
It's also really useful for broadband users, to be able to be signed in, but tell your contacts that you're away or busy. Well written op. Jade x
scumfrogs 27.08.2002 00:30
Great op! I use MSN Messenger to keep in touch with friends and associates, and it does have its ups and downs. Generally it's helpful, and I've made a lot of friends on it. Well done, see you around! Adam :o)