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However, for some reason the earlier versions eschewed things like offline messaging and message histories. Most of us (at least the sane) don’t industriously record every conversation we have with people. This is why people often interrupt one another; to make sure the points they wanted to make are stated before they are forgotten. Taking pauses to think is not always appropriate, viable or possible.
IRC, of course, both allowed a message history (logfile) and kept your recent conversation on screen, but was harder to ‘get into.’ Still, it is my personal preferred IM application since it also allows many to many conversations in an extremely friendly and clear chat environment. Interesting and deep discussions become a thing of the unforgiving permanent past the moment they end.  Time to reflect and contemplate Have you ever had one of those conversations where every word counts? These pauses themselves may contain meaning for the other party that you really really did not want or mean to convey.
These things are hard to do when you’re talking with someone on the train.
Instant messaging is therefore in a way academically superior.
We can listen to music, read a Masters of Media blogpost, write a paper and eat dinner while still being able to keep a fruitful conversation going.
We no longer have our attention tyrannized by our conversation partners – conversations are part of our information flow rather than being attention monopolizers.
It is the reigning (conservative) way of viewing human contact, to a point that everyone can’t feel but a little guilty or ashamed that, when asked where you were last saturday night, you have to answer “behind the computer”.
While I do not want to take this dominant view of RL communication versus online communication head on, I do want to speak in the defense of the latter. Logfiles and message histories preserve our conversations .
About Pepijn Uitterhoeve I'm Pepijn, a veteran Utopia player (and gamer in general).
It was cumbersome, a kind of popup email, but new and fun, and ICQ featured a message history. Furthermore, having on-screen reference to recently written lines helps along the communication in several ways.
A bit later MSN got mainstream, and (quite revolutionary) allowed recently sent and received messages to be displayed in a single chatbox. It makes it more easier to address the things someone else has said earlier because no part of the conversation obfuscates another part, whereas in a linear sequence of spoken words earlier things said are prone to slip from your memory even though you wanted to comment on them.
What these locations and situations have in common is that the people involved are unlikely to have an internet terminal standby to look up extra information regarding a conversation topic.
In face to face conversations, you can claim things like the earth being spherical, WTC 7 being brought down in a controlled demolition or Scarlett Johansen having an awful taste in gala dresses but you will generally have trouble summoning evidence supporting these assertions. You can also get into frustrating situations like being unable to recall the name of a song even though you know a string of lyrics from it, or having forgotten the name of that action film with Nicolas Cage in some prison airplane. Not necessarily due to its innate features (though during trillian chat certain words can be highlighted showing an excerpt from a wikipedia entry) but because instant messaging generally happens online, unless you’re chatting on a closed off intranet, which is just plain stupid.