Instant messaging plays a huge role in our private and professional lives, and it’s hard to imagine our day without any form of instant communication, whether it’s a video call, Slack, or voice message.
But, there were times when instant messaging was just a thought, and everything moved slower. Luckily, today we can solve problems quickly, brainstorm with our coworkers and business partners in real-time, and make smart decisions that move our business forward.
Because we appreciate the convenience instant messaging has brought us, we decided to look back on its humble beginnings and show where it all started and how we came to what we have now.
History of Instant Messaging: Where Did It All Start?
The history of instant messaging is rich, and we can trace its beginnings to the 1960s. In fact, we can divide its history into three parts: the humble beginnings in the 1960s, the “middle period” of its development and growth in the 1990s, and the “boom” stage in the 2010s.
The beginning of instant messaging: 1960-1990
Believe it or not, instant messaging predates the internet! The first form of instant messaging appeared in the 1960s along with the creation of multi-user operating systems such as Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) and Multiplexed Information and Computing Service (Multics).
At first, these systems were used as notification systems for services such as printing, but they quickly became communication tools for people logged into the same computer. Via CTSS, up to 30 users could send text messages at the same time.
The development of these systems allowed research labs, universities, and other organizations to communicate seamlessly during the 1970s.
Simultaneously, in the 1970s, bulletin board systems became increasingly popular. A Bulletin board system (BSS) is a computer server that runs software enabling users to connect to the system by using a terminal program. BSS systems allowed users to exchange messages, upload software and data, and exchange messages with other users through public message boards.
The 1980s brought the first dedicated online chat service to the public: CompuServe CB Simulator. CompuServe CB Simulator was the first service designed for online chat.
In the nineties, Commodore International released the Commodore 64 PC with an internet service known as Q-Link. Q-Link hosted email services, online news, sharing libraries, and instant messaging. However, the service was not free, and users had to pay a fee before sending a message.
An increase in the use of instant messaging: 1990-2010
The beginning of instant messaging in the 1960s lasted until the 1990s, when the large competing IM platforms such as AIM, Yahoo, and MSN arrived.
The first SMS message was sent in the U.K. in December of 1992. A simple “Merry Christmas” was sent over the Vodafone GSM network.
After four more years, in 1996, an Israeli company Mirabilis launched an ICQ, an instant messaging service that enabled users to chat in groups and one-on-one and exchange files.
Just one year later, in 1997, AOL instant messenger (AIM) was launched, and its peak was in the mid-2000s when it had the largest share (52%) of the instant messaging market in North America.
In 1988, Yahoo! Messenger was released, and a year after that, its biggest competitor, MSN Messenger, saw the light of the day.
The 2000s marked the golden age for instant messaging, as more features such as playing games, video calls, and photo sharing became widely available. Simultaneously, SMS messages decreased in popularity, with only 30 million sent each month in the US.
Through 2002 and 2006, apps such as iChat, Skype, Google Talk, and MySpace were released, and the introduction of Facebook chat in 2008 marked another great era of instant messaging.\
The peak of instant messaging: 2010 - present
Instant messaging underwent a renaissance in 2010, with the appearance of apps such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Wechat.
These apps completely changed how we perceive instant messaging, enabling users to do much more than chat. WeChat, for instance, was released in 2011 and is now a mobile platform that allows users to shop and pay for goods, order services such as taxis and food, play games, and much more. Snapchat, on the other hand, was released in 2011. It’s a mix between an instant messaging platform and a social network, and it allows coverage of live events, among many other things.
Lastly, we need to mention Slack, a workplace collaboration software released in 2013 that revolutionized how we do and perceive work. Slack quickly hit “unicorn” status. This company took only a little over a year to reach over $1 billion in worth.
How Important Is Instant Messaging for Your Business?
Instant messaging made significant changes both in our personal and professional lives. Businesses today leverage the benefits of instant messaging tools in several ways.
Instant messaging tools were probably the biggest “life savers” during the COVID-19 pandemic since they allowed coworkers and managers to communicate with each other and share ideas seamlessly. It also helped organizations nurture and build team spirit when physical contact was limited. Furthermore, using instant messaging in business helped companies stay in touch with their customers and build stronger relationships.
Instant messaging also helps companies achieve greater efficiency, allowing employees to stay in touch in real-time, and avoid waiting for (usually) formal and strict email replies. Instant messaging is perfect for fast-moving projects where speed has a role in getting things done. All of this means greater efficiency for organizations.
Custom-made instant messaging solutions provide greater security. Companies that do not have instant messaging solutions and fail to provide work tools for employees are at risk of employees using personal tools to solve work issues. This leaves companies with less control over their data and who has access to it.
Remember, instant messaging and collaboration tools aren’t always the safest solution. Companies don’t have control, nor do they always know which technologies and standards those tools were based on. Making a custom-made instant messaging solution might be the best idea.
CometChat: A safe choice for your company
While building a custom-made instant messaging solution might be the safest option for your business, building a safe messaging app from scratch is costly and time-consuming.
Luckily, companies don’t have to do everything by themselves since there are reliable solutions—including CometChat’s SDK—that can help you build safe chat apps fast.
By using our chat SDK, businesses don’t have to worry about compliance since it already has all the security and compliance features built in. And its robust extension library allows developers and even non-coders to build safe and modern chat solutions and integrate them into their existing technology stack.
Another benefit CometChat’s SDK brings is on-prem deployments which allow clients to have greater control over security and avoid risking non-compliance with requirements.
That said, CometChat’s SDK can help you streamline and improve your processes while keeping your privacy (and the privacy of your clients) on highest levels. The best thing is: you can set up your secure messaging solution easily and within minutes. Give CometChat a try for free today, and see for yourself.
The history of instant messaging is rich and lasts for over half a century. We’ve seen its humble beginnings, the development stage in 11900, and its boom in 2010.
While it seems the development of instant messaging reached its maximum, we’re looking forward to seeing new and innovative solutions that help us bring our business and private communication to another level.