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May 1, 2009

AIM and AOL, MSN Messenger and MSN

I think it's interesting to think about the functionality of America Online's AOL Instant Messager and Microsoft's MSN Messenger. Each one is very similar, yet distinctly different. In the era where online instant messaging completely exploded onto the scene for 12-year-olds to discover, each one brought something to the table. It's especially interesting to find out which kids used which IM device. From my experience, it depended on where you went to school. The greater majority of the kids in my school in southern Minnesota used MSN Messenger and hardly anyone used AIM. My cousin, from (more or less) central Minnesota, close to the Metro area, used AOL with all her friends and not many used MSN.
I think this would offer an interesting case study to see where kids are using AOL and MSN. Each corporation, America Online and Microsoft, are huge corporations and don't have any less strength in either area. In my honest opinion, I think it came down to one kid discovering one or the other, learning how it works, telling all of his/her friends and getting them hooked. It spreads from a select group of kids to virtually the entire area. That is the unique thing about information among kid; it doesn't take long for anything to be announced to the whole audience. As more and more young people started using these IM devices, personal information and gossip flooded the dialogue boxes like a waterfall of potentially dangerous information. Photos, files, and links could be sent directly to someone by the touch of a button, which offered up a whole new idea of friendship and relationships over long distances.
Harmful or harmless, instant messaging exploded onto the scene of adolescent life and brought forth a new concept of interaction without having to speak face-to-face to someone. As we read in Instant Identity, flirting and rumors (gossip) were passed effortlessly among peers, making the physical act of attending school and interacting directly mean something completely different than before.