With the onset of social media, it struck me that we now communicate very differently as compared to before! And as a communication student, what better way to combine both communication and Internet for my topic this week!
We learnt in class the Email was the most commonly used tool on the Internet. Coming from my experience in the office, yes it is still very widely used today as well! Common ones were: Pacific Internet, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, Gmail etc. Even amongst the emails, Pacific and Yahoo are almost non-existent, Hotmail is uncommon, and Gmail, which was the latest to the game amongst the 4, is pretty much compulsory!
Instant Messaging then came around in the mid 1990s. In a time when you had to wait for the person to reply your email, instant messaging very quickly took hold in society due to its real-time communication. It is a lot more like a chat rather than an exchange of messages. The reputed first Instant Messaging began with ICQ in 1996.
After the popularity of ICQ, many companies tried to tap into this market. Yahoo Messenger was one such programme. More importantly and I am sure much, much more relatable and close to the heart for us reading this post: MSN Messenger.
MSN Messenger caught on really quickly amongst the society when it debuted in 1999, probably due to the fact Microsoft was a stronghold then, and everyone was using hotmail accounts. At first, it was just text messaging and contact lists, then it added chat statuses, customizing features like appearances, names, avatars etc and added services like group chats, file transfer, emoticons and winks etc. It became Windows Live Messenger and a staple in almost every computer. Eventually, it ran out of steam and closed down in 2013. Here are some links that show how much MSN Messenger has impacted our lives and how sad we are to see it go… Just for reminisce sake.
In the mid 1990s, VoIP calls were budding but not adopted by the public very much. However, Skype burst into the scene in 2003 with FREE calls. Regardless of where you were around the world, you can call and HEAR the voices of your close ones and even SEE them via this freemium. They also offered a payable service where you use the computer programme to call directly to a landline or handphone number. Skype has also become popular for its additional features, including file transfer, and videoconferencing. Such services let you bypass traditional phone switching networks in favor of digitized, over-the-internet voice calls, instant messaging, and video conferencing. I remember using it with my sister and friends who were overseas, and when I went travelling, that was how I kept in contact with my family. The connection was shaky but at least we could see and hear them for a bit!
Following the popularity of Skype, many similar programmes came out as well! You can see the list of top 10 VoIP apps for desktop recommended here. I personally use very little of Skype, and more of Google Hangouts and Oovoo as I find them more stable and able to take more people in chat groups.Google Hangouts also enable you to merge other Google services into your conversation, so that collaboration is a lot more convenient! For example, I just used it to discuss a school project and work on the proposal with my group members online, using Hangouts and Google Docs at the same time!
These programmes have gone beyond the computer interface but have gone mobile as well! Whatsapp, Viber, LINE, WeChat…. the apps are endless! They now combine VoIP with instant text messaging, with file-transfers such as audio, pictures, videos and even locations! It is needless to say that many of us rely heavily on these apps on a daily basis. These days, they are play quite a big role in my travels as I use these programmes to reduce my cost of telecommunications such as keeping in touch, working etc.
So our communication has gone from face-to-face, to email that is asynchronous, to real-time Instant Messaging with ICQ, to MSN Messenger that allowed personalization, emoticons and file-sharing, to real-time voice and video communication online with Skype and finally to a combination of ALL of the above anytime and anywhere in our smartphones through the rise of communication apps. What a journey we have come. These has many impacts on the way we communicate, some studies have discussed that we are now less comfortable with face-to-face than online! It is very much understandable, given the heavy role online communication plays in our lives. However, I feel that we must remember to use these technological advances to help us and not take away what is real and natural to us!
After all, if you think about it, online communication is still not exactly the same as real conversations. Just look at the video below!