AOL Announces that Instant Messaging is More Popular than Ever

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Teens and Young Adults Still Dominate But At-Work and Mobile Usage Is Growing Rapidly.

— Internet Users on High-Speed Connections Send More Instant Messages; Customizing “Away” Messages Remains Hot; 55 and Older Say Photo Sharing is Important

— New York, Miami and Chicago Are Most Active IM Cities; Dallas/Fort Worth Residents and San Franciscans Are Most Likely to IM from Work; Philadelphia Wins ‘Water Cooler Award': Most Likely to Gossip about Co-Workers via Instant Message

Teens and young adults still lead the way on instant messaging (IM), but usage in the workplace and on mobile phones and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) is on the rise, according to a new survey from America Online Inc. The second annual survey on instant messaging use in America, released today by the world’s leading interactive services company, found instant messaging has gone mainstream, with preferences and habits as unique and diverse as its users:

— Nearly all surveyed teens and young adults (90 percent) engage in instant messaging, but IM is not the teen phenomenon it was once considered. An amazing 48 percent of those aged 55+ now use instant messaging, with photo sharing their favorite feature. Seven out of ten 22 – 34 year-olds and 55 percent of adults aged 35 – 54 use IM at home, at work or on any number of mobile devices.

— At-work use is gaining momentum with 27 percent of all IM users saying they use IM in the workplace – a 71 percent increase over last year. Fully 43 percent of employed IM users say they use desktop IM to communicate quickly in the workplace.

— Nineteen percent of IM users now send IMs or SMS text messages from mobile phones and PDAs, as compared with ten percent that did so last year. Thirty-two percent of these mobile messengers say they stay in touch with co-workers via mobile IM or SMS text messages while on business travel.

— The vast majority of those surveyed send IMs to keep in touch with family or friends (90 percent). Others use IM to share photos (28 percent), set up weekend or evening activities (22 percent), play games (14 percent) and get to know dates better (11 percent).

“Our second annual survey reveals that instant messaging has become part of the fabric of our daily lives, enabling all the roles we play from student to best friend, and from parent to busy professional,” said Edmund Fish, senior vice president and general manager, Desktop Messaging, America Online. “It’s clear that instant messaging has now gone mainstream; it’s helping people do everything from spark new relationships to increase their productivity at work. We at AOL are extremely pleased to provide people everywhere with IM services that are reliable, easy to use and connected to a thriving global community.”

Nationwide and around the world, instant messaging use is growing, with more than 7 billion(1) instant messages being sent every day worldwide, according to IDC. comScore Media Metrix(2) reports that there are 250 million people across the globe – and nearly 80 million Americans – who regularly use instant messaging as a quick and convenient communications tool.

While more than 61 percent of those surveyed said they use more than one instant messaging application, AOL remains the leader, with 52 percent of users selecting AOL’s instant messaging services, including the AOL(R) Buddy List feature within the America Online subscriber service, the free AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service and the global ICQ instant messaging service.

The AOL instant messaging trends survey of nearly 5,000 respondents ages 13 and over was conducted in partnership with Opinion Research Corporation from June 7-17 and July 26-28, 2004.

Top 10 Cities and AOL’s First Annual IM Awards

This year’s survey includes a listing of America’s top ten cities for IM usage and a number of “awards” for unique instant messaging habits of IM users in various cities.

According to the survey, the top ten markets for instant messaging are:

1. New York, NY

2. Miami, FL

3. Chicago, IL

4. Philadelphia, PA

5. Orlando, FL

6. Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX

7. Atlanta, GA

8. Washington, DC

9. Los Angeles, CA

10. Houston, TX

The AOL IM Awards include:

The Water Cooler Award: IM users in Philadelphia are most likely to gossip or complain about both their co-workers and their boss via IM (both 27 percent).

The Fastest Fingers Award: In New York and Dallas, IM users send the most instant messages per day (average 17 IMs per person).

The Job Jumper Award: In Tampa, IM users are most likely to send instant messages from work to look for new jobs (24 percent).

The ‘An Affair to Forget’ Award: IM users in Philadelphia are most likely to maintain multiple screen names to avoid an ex or a bad date (17 percent).

The Clark Kent Award: In Washington, DC and Minneapolis, IM users are most likely to have multiple screen names in order to maintain an alter-ego (20 percent).

The Chatty Charlie Award: IM users are the most “talkative” in Philadelphia and Miami, with an average of two instant messaging conversations going on at once.

The ‘Come Here Often?’ Award: In Atlanta and Sacramento, IM users are the most likely to use instant messaging to get to know dates or potential dates better (15 percent).

The Schoolhouse Rock Award: IM users in Atlanta are most likely to send mobile instant messages from a classroom or on campus (34 percent).

The Romance@Work Award: In Washington, DC, IM users are most likely to flirt or ask for or accept a date by instant message from the workplace (39 percent).

The Digital Don Juan Award: IM users in Cleveland are most likely to use their mobile phone or PDA for romance (56 percent). In fact, 31 percent have flirted and 38 percent have asked for or accepted a date via a mobile message.

Other Key IM Findings:

Overall findings from the survey include:

IM Gaining on or Surpassing Email for Many: Twenty-nine percent say that they send as many – if not more – IMs than they do e-mails, and the younger users are, the more likely they are to favor IM. Half (49 percent) of teens and young adults (ages 13-21) say they send more instant messages than e-mails, while only six percent of those 55 and older say they do.

Teens and Young Adults Still Lead the Way: Ninety percent of Internet-savvy teens and young adults say they send instant messages, and 71 percent of those ages 22-34 say the same. America Online dominates the teen and young adult population with more than four out of five (81 percent) using the AIM service or the AOL Buddy List feature to send instant messages.

High-Speed Boosts IM Usage: More than seven out of ten (71 percent) say they access the Internet at home using a high-speed connection, and 29 percent of those with high-speed access say this connectivity leads them to spend more time instant messaging.

Variety is the Spice of “Away” Messages: One in four (25 percent) IM users changes his or her “away” message at least once a week. Nearly one in three (31 percent) reads other people’s “away” messages every time they log on or every time a new one appears.

Photo-Sharing Leads Features: The most important IM features nationwide are photo sharing (39 percent), customization (36 percent) and file sharing (32 percent). New Yorkers find the “away” message to be the most important feature (39 percent).

— IM Screen Name as Calling Card: When meeting someone new, those ages 13-21 are as likely to give out their IM screen names (52 percent) as their e-mail addresses (53 percent). This group is also as likely to use instant messaging (33 percent) as mobile phones (38 percent) to keep in touch with friends. Instant messaging is now tied with mobile phones (36 percent) as the preferred way to stay in touch with friends over the summer.

Multiple Identities: More than one out of three (36 percent) IM users say they have more than one screen name. The majority (59 percent) says they do so to keep their groups of contacts separate, such as friends, family or co-workers. Thirty-one percent say they do so in order to monitor who’s online without letting certain people know they are available, while 12 percent say they use alternative accounts to manage their online dating activities.

IM in the Workplace

According to Osterman Research, 24 million instant messaging users in the U.S. log on from work, and 58 percent (nearly 14 million) use the AIM service. The AOL instant messaging trends survey revealed that nearly three out of four (71 percent) at-work IM users feel that instant messaging has had a positive impact on their work lives. The impact is even higher in Denver, where 88 percent of IM users maintain that their day-to-day business lives have benefited from instant messaging. More at-work highlights from this survey include:

Over the Cubicle: The majority sends instant messages while at work to communicate with colleagues (70 percent), while 63 percent say they send IMs to get answers and make business decisions and 34 percent say they use instant messaging to interact with clients or customers. More than one in ten (11 percent) say they have used IM at work to avoid a potentially difficult in-person conversation.

Checking In from Work: Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of at-work IM users say they also send occasional instant messages during their workday to check-in with family and friends, while 22 percent of working parents surveyed say that IM provides them with peace of mind by enabling them to quickly touch base with their children from the office.

IM a Flirt: More than one in five (21 percent) say they have flirted via instant message from work, and denizens of San Francisco are the most likely (47 percent) to send instant messages from the workplace for business, family or social purposes.

Mobile IM

According to today’s survey, 19 percent of IM users now send instant and SMS text messages from their mobile phones and PDAs, compared with just ten percent that did so last year. The AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service is the most popular instant messaging application available on mobile devices, with 35 percent of mobile messengers choosing to use the AIM service or AOL Buddy List feature on their cell phones and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs).

IM to SMS – Watch Out!: While SMS text messaging still dominates in the mobile messaging arena, 32 percent of all mobile messengers now use an instant messaging service on their mobile device instead of, or in addition to, sending SMS text messages. Men are slightly more likely than women to use mobile instant messaging (38 percent vs. 28 percent).

Watch the Elbows: More than one in three (36 percent) mobile messengers have sent mobile IMs or SMS text messages from a mobile device in crowded public transportation, such as the bus or subway. Sporting events (25 percent), busy meetings (23 percent), campus classrooms (22 percent) and hospitals (12 percent) are other top places where mobile users find it convenient to send mobile messages.

Work Connection: One in three (32 percent) mobile messengers send mobile IMs or SMS text messages to keep in touch with the office and make business decisions while on travel for work, and nearly three in four (74 percent) send mobile messages when they don’t have time for a phone conversation.

Pickup Line: Nearly one in three (31 percent) mobile messengers say they have used mobile IM or SMS text messaging for romance, including flirting (25 percent) and asking for or accepting a date (14 percent). Meanwhile, three percent have sent a mobile instant message to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and fully ten percent admit to having sent a mobile message while on a bad date.

Survey Methodology: Survey results are based on 4,510 respondents, 13 years and older, in the top 20 markets around the country. The survey was conducted June 7-17 and July 26-28, 2004 by Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of America Online. At-work instant messaging findings are based on those who work within organizations of 500 employees or less. The survey rankings are a compilation of several key factors, including the current percentage of instant message users; the number of people on their contact list; the number of instant messages sent per day; the average number of instant messaging conversations at one time; the number who customize their IM application; the number who have more than one screen name; the number who change their away messages; and the percentage who send more instant messages than e-mails.

(1)IDC Worldwide Enterprise Instant Messaging Applications 2003 Competitive Analysis: Putting IM To Work

(2)comScore Media Metrix, June, 2004

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AOL Announces that Instant Messaging is More Popular than Ever
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