By Shweta Madaan:
It is the 21st century and most of us are well-equipped with the latest developments and advancements in technology. It is not surprising to know that every day; something new gets created in this world which seems to function at an alarming speed. One of these great developments is the smart phone. These phones are very much different from the traditional mobile phones and are poles apart in use and the quality of their user-interface and that is probably why they are known as ‘smart’ phones. There are numerous reasons for their increasing popularity and it can be proved true because the gadget-loving youth is accepting it with arms wide open. These gadgets are great for keeping yourself in touch with friends, family and colleagues. It hardly matters what device one has, there are lot of options available for a person in order to stay connected. One such option is that of instant messaging.
Instant messaging is like a revolution in the way we communicate. The messages get transferred at a quick speed from the sender to the receiver irrespective of the type of message, whether it is text-based, voice messages or video calling. These instant messaging applications work with an active internet connection. They provide real-time messaging experience. Almost 13 million people use instant messaging programs that allow those who are online to hold conversations with other users instantaneously. The rapid rise in popularity of instant messaging is mostly seen among adolescents. IM apps are the most frequently used apps and people cannot deny that they are hooked onto them 24X7. They appreciate instant messaging because it gives them a greater freedom(as there is no upper limit on messages sent) and they have to pay only nominal charges for using these apps. Some of such apps are BBM, Whatsapp, iMessage, eBuddy, WeChat, IM+, GTalk and many more.
The instant messaging service WhatsApp has been topping the download charts and is the most popular IM application which boasts of millions of users. It is a favourite application for both iPhone and Android users and even for those who use Blackberry and Nokia phones. It has become a replacement for the traditional SMSes. If sources are to be believed, the Whatsapp servers handle over 10 billion messages per day which is quite a good number. So the question which arises here is – why is IM growing by leaps and bounds? Why has it driven people crazy? The rise may be because it is cross platform i.e. the device does not matter; all you need is to install the application. It supports all sorts of messages. And, people have become more interactive now; they always remain in touch with their friends and are eager to give details of most of the events happening with/around them.
IM has improved connectivity among people. Even if you and your friends have to move away to different corners of the world, you will not feel the absence owing to it. The responses are so instantaneous that people get used to the speed; and sometimes, if replies are not received within a minute, they become restless. Instant messaging is great as it gives the feeling of talking face-to-face. One can talk to many colleagues at the same time and thus, it is helpful for team projects, group chats or activities which require continuous monitoring of a group. It then becomes much like a hierarchical data system because all responses are synced. It breaks down the barriers to communication. IM is quite significant in situations where one-on-one communication is real-time. There are so many benefits that one can consider opting for it as a medium to be linked with others.
But there is also some security issue associated with instant messaging. The messages which are sent through such services are not encrypted and everything is sent in plain text. It simply means the encryption system is broken. The third party can eavesdrop and read your chat if there is any flaw in the connection (if pocket tracing is available). The sniffing of data is very easy, in case when instant messaging is done through a public Wi-Fi network. The virus programmers and hackers grab every opportunity to invade the territories of others and it is certainly resulting in compromising of one’s privacy. You may be unaware about anything like this but the thought of a stranger reading your conversation is just like a nightmare. Even taking over a user’s account is just a cakewalk. Last year, customers of a popular IM application were left in utter shock when they came to know about their accounts are not secured by the company and thus, prone to hijacking. Apparently, the privacy is dead because such instances are taking place. Some tests have been performed to know about the security levels but it is found out that such IM tools can be easily hacked using online softwares which are free! Once hacked, there is no way to restore account security and then, hacked account can be used by other person at his discretion.
It is quite clear that although there are a lot of benefits of real time messaging, there are problems as well in storing one’s privacy. So, such applications must be used with caution, after all, privacy cannot be put at stake!