The 6 Types of IM Software and Apps

Discover The Right Instant Messaging Type for Your Needs

AIM is one of the most popular IM clients in the world, yet allows users to also chat with friends on Facebook Chat and Google Talk networks. Used with permission. © 2010 AOL LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Choosing the right instant messaging app for your needs can seem a little daunting when you consider how many different types of messaging apps that are available.

While most IM services perform the same way and offer many similar features, such as video and voice chat, image sharing and more, the audience attracted to each can be markedly different from the next.

You can narrow down your options by choosing which IM category suits your uses and needs.

Single-Protocol IMs

The most popular IM software clients, based on total users, fall under the category of single-protocol IMs. These apps connect you typically to their own network of users, but may also offer integration of other popular IM services.

Audience: Great for beginners to instant messaging, general IM users.

Popular single-protocol IM clients:

Multi-Protocol IMs

Like the name implies, multi-protocol IM clients allow users to connect multiple IM services within a single app. Previously, IM users had to download, install and use more than one IM client at once to stay connected with contacts who were spread across each one's favorite IM client. Contacts and buddy lists from single-protocol messengers are pulled together so they all appear in one of these apps.

Access to some single-protocol IM services have changed and these multi-protocol IMs are no longer able to interface with them.

For example, Facebook closed access to its Messenger service, so these are no longer able to tap into your Facebook friends and conversations.

Audience: A solution for users with more than one IM client and account.

Popular of multi-protocol IM clients:

Web-based Messengers

Generally, web-based messengers are accessible with little more than an internet connection and a web browser.

A download is not necessary. Web messengers may offer multi-protocol IM support.

Audience: Great for public computer users, such as those at libraries, internet cafes, school or work where downloading an IM client may be forbidden.

Popular web-based messengers:

Mobile IM Clients

With the proliferation of smartphones and the rapid expansion of mobile platforms, IM apps on mobile devices have all but replaced past generations of IM clients that are downloaded or are web-based. There are dozens of instant messaging apps for pretty much every mobile device platform, from iOS to Android to Blackberry.

Most mobile IM apps are free downloads, while others may offer in-app purchases, or are premium IM apps you must purchase to download. 

Audience: For users who want to chat on the go.

Popular Mobile IM Apps

Enterprise IM Software

Although many users find IM as a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, many businesses are now turning to the power of IM for their business communications. Enterprise IM clients are specialized messengers that offer all the features of IM with the security businesses need.

Audience: For businesses and organizations, their employees and their customers.

Enterprise IM software: