Don't Shoot the Messages

AOL and Microsoft slug it out over your buddy list. Users lose

Time was when the dread moment of learning how popular you were came only with the delivery of birthday or Valentine's Day cards. Now every day is judgment day, thanks to instant messaging and the in-your-face presence of its address book (the "buddy list") on computer desktops. The software offers real-time chat with friends, family or co-workers who are online, as most now seem to be. Instant messaging, or IM, in fact, handles more missives each day than the U.S. Postal Service. Besides relying on it to evaluate their popularity levels, teenagers use IM to swap homework tips and gossip; Internet...

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