IM has been popularized by America Online (AOL) as a way for AOL users to chat directly with each other rather than speak in chat rooms. As long as the IM clients for everyone involved in the conversation are running, they alert you to any incoming messages. The clients also announce to the server that you are active and listening for messages, so your friends can be made aware via buddy lists that you are available to chat with them.
You can use IM in place of IRC for interoffice collaboration. Ubuntu provides the GAIM IM client for your use. To use it, you need to be communicating with a group of "buddies" who are active IM users as well.
GAIM is a GNOME (GTK-based) IM client that supports a wide range of protocols such as TOC, AIM/ICQ, Yahoo!, IRC, MSN, Jabber, Napster, Zephyr, and Gadu-Gadu. GAIM is a feature-rich message client, and it has support for plug-ins that extend the functionality of the application.
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