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Last updated on March 13, 2019

Instant Messaging Vs Chat: The Secret to Choosing the Right Platform for Business Sectors

Chat and Instant messaging icon on phones

The terms “chat” and “instant messaging” have most probably been interchanged confusingly by both business owners and end-users.
Who could blame them? At first glance, it seems and sounds like both convey basically one and the same thing, especially in the context of communication.
In the world of the internet, however, these two terms convey different forms of keeping in touch.
Indeed, although chat allows users and even businesses to send instant messages to friends, colleagues and customers, instant message is still not considered the same as chat.
Quite confusing, isn’t it?
Chat and instant messaging both allow users to converse more quickly and easily through using a short messaging format and enabling the exchange of messages in real-time.
Ideally, both are used when both or all parties involved are online to ensure that sent messages can be read promptly.
It is this particular convenience and instantaneous connection that make both chat and instant messaging essential and powerhouse resources for modern-day communication.

What is chat?

Man and woman chatting using chat messenger
Chat messaging was developed and launched during the 1970’s. The main goal for its design and conception was to give people the ability to chat with groups of people at the same time.
What started with only five people who could chat at a time, was then expanded into a technological advancement n the 90’s that forever changed the digital landscape.
In the past, the use of internet was more costly and the charges incurred were based on how long a person spent online. Due to the expensive costs of the internet back then, it left a decline in the number of people using chat.
But, since AOL helped make the use of the internet more affordable, people are now able to stay online for as long as they wanted and that’s when chat rooms became a huge hit. In 1997, in the midst of the elevation of chat rooms, AOL was able to host over 19 million users.
Chat basically transpires in a virtual chat room. It is a forum where multiple people connect with each other discussing their shared interest and send messages and images to everyone all at once.
The people that comprise a chat room do not always have to be initially affiliated or connected for them to be able to send and receive messages from each other.
Currently, there are still applications and platforms that allow people to engage in chat rooms.

What is Instant Messaging (IM)?

Boy and girl communicating through Instant Messaging
Instant messaging is usually more suited for a one-on-one conversation between two individuals. It enables users to keep a list of people or contacts to communicate with.
Instant messaging was released in the year 1960, when Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed the platform, they allowed up to 30 users to log and send messages to each other.
The concept of instant messaging grew in popularity as advancements in technology continued to progress. It was in 1996 when instant messaging began to dominate the lifestyles of internet users, right when Mirabilis introduced the free instant-messaging service called ICQ.
Aside from messages, instant messaging now allows exchanging files such as videos, documents and images.
Both instant messaging and chat have dominated the business sector, as shown by the growing number of chat and IM platforms being developed to support all business sizes:

    1. Slack
    2. Microsoft Teams
    3. HeySpace
    4. ChatWork
    5. Zoho Cliq
    6. WhatsApp
    7. Viber
    8. Telegram
    9. WeChat
    10. Google Hangouts
    11. Viber
    12. Kik
    13. Line
    14. Skype
    15. Facebook Messenger


Spot the difference: Highlighting the variations between instant messaging and chat

While both are used mainly to communicate with other people, there are distinct differences that help distinguish how chat and IM operate differently:

  • Creating an account through clicking the ‘Register’ or ‘Sign Up’ button
  • Internet connection
  • Downloading the instant messaging app from the web and installing it in the user’s smartphone or computer
  • Some IM apps require payment when signing up
  • Group messaging
  • Customizable
  • Messages are visible to everyone with access or link to the chat room
  • Invitations to join a chat room can be sent to individuals
  • Some chat software provide pre-chat forms particularly when used to provide customer assistance
  • Usually is applied to or implemented in online browsers
  • Creation of usernames instead of the user’s actual name
  • One-to-one conversation
  • Private messaging
  • Allows opening multiple messaging windows for different individual private messages
  • Quick, easy and real-time communication
  • Create a “Buddy List” to save screen names of contacts
  • Easy to check if contacts are online or not
  • Delivery status of messages and read receipts are visible
  • Affordable communication resource
  • Boosts customer convenience
  • Chat rooms can be created for a particular topic only, making the conversation more specific and focused
  • Can be embedded in websites to enable live chat support
  • Contributes to increase in website traffic
  • Diminishes language barriers
  • Pre-chat surveys provide valuable end-user data for improvement of services
  • Real-time communication
  • End-user-friendly interface>
  • Lesser security risk because exchange of messages are limited to select individuals
  • Lesser instances of spam
  • Provides a convenient method of exchanging quick updates and notifications among employees and even between businesses and customers
  • Allows video conferencing and keeping tabs on team performances
  • Makes communication possible even while on-the-go
  • Reviewing messages for specific conversations is faster
  • Poses higher risk of privacy invasion
  • Unfiltered content from other members or participants in the chat room
  • Not all chat platforms are compatible with mobile devices
  • Live chat agents may not always be available to chat with in real-time
  • Not an ideal communication tool for businesses catering to the older generation or people who are not well-versed with using the internet and technology
  • Does not support messaging for individuals who are always travelling, or  on-the-go
  • Both parties must be online at the same time in order to allow real-time and continuous communication
  • Potential misuse, particularly in an office setting may disrupt work concentration, operations and productivity
  • Misinterpretation of messages is common
  • Files sent via IM applications are also susceptible to virus attacks and hacking
  • Unsuitable for lengthy messages or discussions


More than just a tool for convenience

The common denominator between these two communication platforms is the capability to connect individuals, groups, and businesses across the globe. Communication is one of the secrets behind the rise and success of the biggest brands known today.
Whether its consumer-to-consumer, business-to-business, business-to-consumer, industries to sectors — breaking down ideas and coming up with a strategy to create something that is functional, beneficial and sustainable for the common good starts with a clear and effective way to connect and network.
Chat and instant messaging are both designed to support and augment existing communication resources and channels.  The vaster the possibilities presented by easy and adaptable messaging systems contribute to the improvement of employee management, executing company operations, and imparting a brand’s identity and core objectives.
Advancements in communication secure the smoother transfer of knowledge in a manner that gaps in interpersonal relations done through other forms of connecting are bridged.

Instant messaging or chat, communication helps push for efficiency

Perhaps, instead of choosing which is better, the bigger question for business owners now is this: ‘What is the most suitable messaging channel that will complement their company’s unique environment and help grow their brand and enhance their services?’
To answer that question, finding a reliable partner to layout how the distinct features of each will impact the business both internally and externally is a good first step.
New Media Services is a name that brands can trust, as exhibited by an exceptional array of Live Operator Online Platform (LOOP) services. Businesses can choose from our flexible IM, SMS and EMAIL chat services. Send us a message to learn more about our cost-effective business chat solutions!