Instant Messaging Has Gone to Work

It’s not a surprise that a Jupiter Media Metrix study found the time spent using instant messaging applications was up 48 percent at home in the past year, but it was a surprise to see the time spent instant messaging at work was up 110 percent.

The number of minutes spent instant messaging at work increased from 2.3 billion minutes in September 2000 to 4.9 billion in September 2001. The number of unique users of instant messaging applications at work increased 34 percent, from 10 million in September 2000 to 13.4 million in September 2001, the study found.

Among at-home Internet users, which have traditionally dominated instant messaging use, the total minutes spent using instant messaging applications in the United States increased 48 percent, from 9.2 billion in September 2000 to 13.6 billion in September 2001. The number of unique users of instant messaging applications at home increased 28 percent, from 42 million in September 2000 to 53.8 million in September 2001.

“While the adoption rate of instant messaging continues to outpace that of the Internet, the time spent using the applications demonstrates even more profoundly the significant role instant-messaging plays online,” said Charles Buchwalter, vice president of media research for Jupiter Media Metrix. “We first noticed the explosive popularity of messaging in the home environment, but workplace usage is following a similar trajectory.”

Not surprisingly AOL remains the top brand among instant messengers at home, both in terms of unique users and total minutes. AOL’s Instant Messenger, Buddy List (for AOL members) and ICQ applications had 41.7 million unique users in September 2001, up 21 percent from September 2000. AOL messaging applications were used 9.8 billion minutes in September 2001, up 31 percent from September 2000.

MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger are the fastest growing applications among at-home users both in terms of minutes and users. MSN increased its users 94 percent, from 9.6 million users in September 2000 to 18.5 million in September 2001; and Yahoo increased 25 percent, from 9.5 million users to 11.9 million over the same period. MSN was used 1.9 billion minutes in September 2001, up 159 percent from September 2000; and Yahoo was used 2.0 billion minutes in September 2001, up 98 percent from the previous year.

Among at-work instant messengers the same pattern is seen. AOL has the most users at work, but MSN and Yahoo are the fastest growing. AOL had 8.8 million unique users in September 2001, up 17 percent from September 2000; MSN had 4.8 million users, up 88 percent; and Yahoo had 3.4 million users, up 83 percent.

Unlike at home, time spent on AOL at work has grown the fastest over the past year. Driven largely by its Instant Messenger application, AOL was used 3.6 billion minutes in September 2001, up 149 percent from September 2000. Meanwhile, Yahoo was used 603 million minutes in September 2001, up 60 percent vs. the previous year, and MSN was used 651 million minutes, up 32 percent.

Competition among the different instant messaging applications, which block interoperability as a means of maintaining their markets, has forced a rise in the number of instant messenger users who use more than one service. According to Jupiter’s study, 29 percent of instant messenger users at home used at least two competing brands in September 2001, up from 24 percent in September 2000. The percentage of AOL users who used at least one competing service in September 2001 was 33 percent; that figure was 70 percent for Yahoo and 63 percent for MSN. At work, 23 percent of messenger users used at least two competing brands, up from 18 percent in September 2000. The percentage of AOL users that used a competing brand in September 2001 was 30 percent; 44 percent for MSN; and 59 percent for Yahoo.

“Instant messaging demonstrates the power of a network effect, where the value of the network grows as its membership increases,” said David Card, vice president and senior analyst, Jupiter Research. “But as AOL continues to block competing messaging technologies, users are taking things into their own hands by using multiple services.”

And instant messenger users should not expect to see interoperability in the near future. According to a report by Ferris Research, the instant messaging industry is still 18 to 24 months away from adoption of the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and SIP for Instant Messaging & Presence Leveraging (SIMPLE) standards.

“The tens of millions of devotees of instant messaging should not expect needed interoperability standards for 18 to 24 months,” said David Ferris, founder and president of Ferris Research. But interoperability between corporate IM services and consumer IM services may only be six to 12 months away, Ferris said, because it is easier to negotiate business relationships between vendors of corporate IM products and consumer IM networks. This could provide an even bigger boost to instant messaging at work because it would allow those using the AOL, MSN and Yahoo systems to interact with employees on company’s private or proprietary systems.


Unique Users of Instant Messaging
(millions of users)
Application At-Home Users At-Work Users
Sept.
2000
Sept.
2001
Percent
Change
Sept.
2000
Sept.
2001
Percent
Change
Unduplicated Total of AOL, Yahoo and MSN 41,996 53,772 28% 9,951 13,361 34%
Unduplicated Total of AOL* 34,479 41,670 21% 7,557 8,832 17%
AOL Proprietary Messenger 14,958 18,622 24% 2,982 2,898 -3%
AOL Instant Messenger 18,573 24,981 35% 4,491 6,084 35%
ICQ Chat 8,375 7,287 -13% 1,189 1,293 9%
Yahoo Messenger 9,541 11,934 25% 1,880 3,441 83%
MSN Messenger 9,573 18,539 94% 2,568 4,816 88%
* includes AOL Proprietary, AOL IM and ICQ
Source: Jupiter Media Metrix

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