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Instant Messengers - Review

Reader rating: 5 out of 10


Which instant messenger should you use?

This How-To Article reviews the three most popular instant messengers: AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Instant Messenger, and MSN Instant Messenger.

Instant Messengers - Review

Our ratings:

1. AOL Instant Messenger

2. Yahoo! Instant Messenger

3. MSN Instant Messenger

1. AOL Instant Messenger

AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is not only the most popular instant messaging software, but also earned our highest rating.

If you're looking for a stable, fast, and easy to use instant messenger, then AOL Instant Messenger is an obvious choice.

In the version we tested, AOL Instant Messenger 4.7, there are some minor enhancements from previous versions. Some enhancements include E-mail alerts and shared buddy lists. AIM is still easy to use and doesn't include any confusing menu commands. One new feature that we found annoying is the pop-up AOL Today window. Each time you start up AIM, the pop-up window will display, with links to AOL related services and content. (This feature can be disabled.)

One place that AIM fails is with security. Anyone can add you to their buddy list without needing your permission. Other instant messengers allow you to choose to require permission for someone to add you to their buddy list. Shared buddy lists, a new feature in version 4.7, also present a possible security problem.

AIM is the most widely used instant messaging software around, and we highly recommend it.

2. Yahoo! Instant Messenger

Yahoo! Instant Messenger isn't as widely used as AOL Instant Messenger, but it offers some rich functionality, similar to AOL Instant Messenger.

One of the first things that you will notice with Yahoo! Instant Messenger is that there is virtually no advertising. AOL's and MSN's instant messengers both have advertising as part of the interface. The no-advertising model of Yahoo! Instant Messenger make for a less cluttered interface.

Yahoo! Messenger is a fairly simple instant messaging program, best for people who don't want to rely on an instant messaging application for Web content. Yahoo! Messenger has the the basic instant messaging features down solid, but doesn't include as much of the content services that AIM has.

3. MSN Messenger

MSN Messenger has the most features of all the instant messenger applications we tested, but doesn't provide the user-friendly interface of AIM or Yahoo! Messenger.

MSN Messenger is more difficult to use than any of the other instant messaging programs we tested. It's difficult to send instant messages to someone not in your contacts (also called buddy lists). While this can be done, it's not as easy to do in MSN Messenger as it is in AIM.

MSN Messenger also lacks some of the commonly used text formatting features found in AIM.

Once you get beyond the start screen of MSN Messenger, it's easier to use, but computer beginners may find the many buttons and menu commands confusing and difficult to use.


Overall, our recommendation is AOL Instant Messenger. AIM has the best, easy to use interface with all the features instant messengers could need. It's great for anyone from the computer beginner to the advanced computer user.

If you don't want to choose AIM or want to switch from AIM to another service, you should try Yahoo! Instant Messenger. While it may be more difficult to find people who are using Yahoo! Instant Messenger, it features a clean, simple interface which is easy for anyone to use.

For the advanced computer user, or if you want some of the more enhanced instant messaging features, we recommend MSN Messenger. While it isn't currently the most user-friendly, it's easy to use once you get used to it.

AOL Instant Messenger

Yahoo! Instant Messenger

MSN Messenger

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