Why Is Instant Messaging Free?

Discussion in 'Community' started by CubaTBird, Jul 9, 2005.

  1. CubaTBird macrumors 68020

    Apr 18, 2004
    one would think... at least i would think.. that the companies that put out im software (aol, msn etc) would have start charging their users for the ability to send instant messages on their computers just like on their phones.. i mean its technically a "web service" right? so how come that business model did not catch on in the late 1990's when im was starting to be the "next big thing"?
  2. Royal Pineapple macrumors 65816

    Royal Pineapple

    IMs have always been free, and i would think that they would continue to be free in the future. AOL pays for it from the ads that they sell for their AIM client, which is what the majority of (aol at least) IMers use. i dont know about MSN but since its microsoft i think itd be ok if they kept it free, they already have more money than brains
  3. ham_man macrumors 68020


    Jan 21, 2005
    Probably because IM doesn't take up all that much bandwith for the supplying companies, they can put ads in their IM clients, and you become more familiar with the company you are IMing with. Plus, I doubt as many people would use it if it wasn't free...
  4. Toppa G's macrumors 6502

    Jun 19, 2003
    The exurbs, MN
    Shhhhh...you might give them ideas! :eek: $.10 per IM (e.g. text messaging) would not be cool, nor would a $5/month fee to have the privilege to use instant messaging networks. If companies can provide free email accounts, IM surely takes less storage and bandwidth, so it's not too big of a cost. Additionally, the infrastructure is already in place, so they don't need to generate revenue to get everything set up.

    If companies had tried to implement the "pay to IM" method in the 90's, users would probably have flocked to the other services that were still free, resulting in less marketing potential for any company who tried to charge for IM usage.
  5. PlaceofDis macrumors Core

    Jan 6, 2004
    if it cost $$ people wouldn't have started using it as widely as they had.... and people would find alternatives to the paid services, like they paid email systems, there are always free options

    bet google would come out with a free client if AOL, MSN, Yahoo started making you pay :D
  6. 40167 macrumors regular

    Sep 5, 2004
    ... E-Mail is also a "web service"; I've never gotten charged for sending an E-Mail either. I guess you could pay for extra "add on" features with some E-Mail services, like pop3 access or no ad banners on the webbased.

    It's paid for by advertisments that are sold, thats why your IM program has ads like your free email providers probibly also have ads. Though you can pretty much again pay for extra "add on" features; if you use AIM on your cellphone you're going to pay for the instant messages, either trough your wireless data or sms charges.... Now does AOL get that money? Nah, but your still going to pay for that instant message.
  7. dotdotdot macrumors 68020

    Jan 23, 2005
    There is no such thing as a 12 or 13 year old kid who would pay for IMing.

    Free? Everyone uses it. Pay for? No one bothers...
  8. G5orbust macrumors 65816


    Jun 14, 2002
    To charge would mean nothing because the second a price tag is fixed, people would jump ship in favor of a free one. IM was created and harnessed by companies. If they choose to restrict it with prices then it can be recreated, thus preserving its existence as a free service. In other words, to make it cost money would be pointless.
  9. dubbz macrumors 68020


    Sep 3, 2003
    Alta, Norway
    Not to mention that there already exist IM services not controlled by any company. Jabber being one of them.
  10. JonMaker macrumors regular

    Apr 24, 2004
    It isn't *really* free... the official clients are mostly ad supported... kinda like MR... :rolleyes:
  11. ravenvii macrumors 604


    Mar 17, 2004
    Melenkurion Skyweir
    If Jabber ever catches on, it could be a good thing. Jabber is a versatile system, and very similar to email in being modular - not everyone has everything in one place. And it would be awesome if it catches on worldwide, instead of having the Americas dominated by AIM, and the Europeans and others being dominated by MSN. (Hmm, usually the intelligence indicators are opposite, but what can you do? ;) )
  12. dotdotdot macrumors 68020

    Jan 23, 2005
    But, you can remove the ads in like AIM or MSN making it 100% free for you. Kinda like MR... :rolleyes:
  13. G5orbust macrumors 65816


    Jun 14, 2002
    I used to use Jabber for limited conversations with my more security conscious friends who enjoy its ability to utilize SSL. Nice system, would be nice if it caught on.
  14. wrc fan macrumors 65816

    wrc fan

    Jan 19, 2003
    In a world where LPs are made like pancakes
    I think the main reason is because the first IM program (or at least widely used public system) was free in (I think) a long term beta sort of thing... and in order to compete with that AOL had to make AIM free so people would switch over... and because AIM was free Microsoft had to make MSN Messenger free. And since both of those were free of course Yahoo had to make theirs free as well... it's all just an endless chain. And now since everyone is so used to using it for free there is no way anyone will want to pay for it.

    Plus using IRC is free as well, and a lot of people originally just did 1 on 1 messaging in IRC until ICQ came out and then they switched to that or at least all my friends did.
  15. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    IM is free because it uses your internet connection, and you already pay for that connection. That's pretty much all you need. That, and an interface that allows you to send a message directly to a single, exact computer on the internet, which a group of programmers could provide without too many problems, I would think. I know you need an email address to use things like MSN (any email works, actually), but that's not a heavy requirement.
  16. dotdotdot macrumors 68020

    Jan 23, 2005
    Also, IM gets a ton of money from other services it provides. First of all, the major company is, of course, AOL Instant Messenger. Well, with ~$24 from members, and only 1/2 who use instant messengers, thats a lot of money right there. Then, all the ads, etc. You know, they get your email address when you sign up. And they could sell it. Then, for example, is cell phones with IMing. If I IM someone from my cell, it costs me about $0.10. If they reply, THEY reply and I get charged 10 cents. Logging in to the service costs 20 cents. To update the buddy list is another 20 cents. Away message? 10 cents. It costs 30 cents just to say hi to someone. They say hi, it costs me 10 cents.

    SO this would cost me a LOT:

    Log in - 10 cents
    I'm here! - 10 cents
    Click on someones name.
    ME: Hey - 10 cents
    Them: Hey! - 10 cents
    Them: Whats up! - 10 cents
    ME: nm u? - 10 cents
    Them: omg EVERYTHING! - 10 cents
    Them: first, i woke up - 10 cents
    Them: then i like, brushed my teeth - 10 cents
    Them: then i like got on the computer and *exceeded limit* - 10 cents
    Them: *continued* started chatting with you! - 10 cents.
    ME: ok cool i g2g im on my cell and this costs me a lot of money. - 10 cents
    Them: ha my cell is free - 10 cents
    Sign off - 10 cents

    THAT COST ME: $1.40
  17. Chaszmyr macrumors 601


    Aug 9, 2002
    ICQ was developed by an isreali firm, which rumor has it was done on behalf of the israeli secret service, so they would have wanted as many people as possible to use it. It's not a concrete reason, but it's a possibility.

    More to the point, IMing simply would not be the same if there was a fee. I'd argue that IMing is one of the greatest things the modern world has to offer, and the beauty of it is that virtually everyone uses it.
  18. Plymouthbreezer macrumors 601


    Feb 27, 2005
    I agree. ;)

    Think about it, when we're older, everyone will use it. It will basically replace the telephone for a lot of people.

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