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In the 1970s, programmers worked on peer-to-peer protocol, allowing universities and research labs to establish simple communication between users of the same computer.

The Zephyr Notification Service, also created at MIT through Project Athena in the 1980s, used Unix to locate and send messages to users.

In 1982, Commodore International released the Commodore 64 PC.

The Commodore 64 included an Internet service, Quantum Link (also known as Q-Link), which came to be known as America Online (AOL) in the '90s.

A major aspect of the rise of instant messaging in the 1990s was the shorthand language and acronyms that came with it: IM language became so ubiquitous that it's completely common usage today, even in emails and SMS mobile text messaging.

In 2000, Internet users took notice of Jabber, a multi-protocol instant messenger that acted as a single gateway for users to chat with friends and access their buddy lists on all of the big networks at the time: AIM, Yahoo and MSN.

By 2005, AIM dominated the instant messaging market with 53 million users. In 2007, it was estimated that Pidgin had 3 million users. A press release from its launch read, "MSN Messenger Service tells consumers when their friends, family and colleagues are online and enables them to exchange online messages and email with the more than 40 million users of the MSN Hotmail TM Web-based email service as well as with people using AOL Instant Messenger." Microsoft renamed the service Windows Live Messenger in 2005, adding photo sharing capabilities, social network integration and games.

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The instant messaging aspect of the service, while perhaps not its most popular function compared to video conferences, is used by many.

Like the services before it, AIM allowed users to send messages to each other, and included user profiles, away messages and icons for more engagement.

With AIM also came the development of different bots, such as Study Buddy and Smarter Child (which have since been retired), with whom users could interact. Messenger included customized "IMVironments," address book integration and custom status messages. Pidgin, founded as "Gaim" in 1998 as an open-source instant messaging client, allowed users to reach contacts on several operating systems.

In 1996, Israeli company Mirabilis launched ICQ, a text-based messenger that was the first to really reach a widespread market of online users.

ICQ allowed for multi-user chats, file transfers, a searchable user directory and more.