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Instant messaging (also abbreviated as simply IM) is a form of communication based on text messages that are sent in real-time between two or more computers functioning within the same network or protocol.
This type of online chat (as it requires Internet connection) is based on the existence of previous user lists, also known as buddy or contact lists.
Some IM clients are still based on text chatting, but they also allow the users to start video conferences or to send audio messages.
Most instant messengers can also be used for file transfer or photo sharing, provided both the sender and the recipient use the same application.