The instant message appears to be catching up to e-mail as the favored way to communicate using the Internet, suggests a new survey conducted by America Online.
Of the 4,000 people interviewed by America Online, a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc., a quarter of them preferred IM, the electronic messages that appear unprompted on a computer screen, over using e-mail. Some 15 percent America Online surveyed in 2004 favored IM.
The instant messages growing popularity has had its price, particularly the attention of hackers. Internet security companies report a steady rise in viruses and other Internet-borne malevolence targeting IM.
While adults and seniors in 2005 showed more interest in IM, its gains on e-mail are largely due the "teens and tweens" with spending power and trendsetting tastes, according to survey data America Online released Thursday.
For instance, the demographic has the highest percentage (66%) of IM users to use it more than e-mail, America Online found. Thats three times the percentage of other age groups.
Two emerging IM features that are popular among teens, America Online found, were making phone calls from computer to cell or traditional landline phones, and IMing to and from cell phones.