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Chapter 14. Instant Messaging > How Instant Messaging Works

How Instant Messaging Works

Instant messaging works a little different from most Internet applications. E-mail, Usenet, IRC, the World Wide Web—all these parts of the Internet operate via a client/server model, with most of the heavy lifting done via a network of dedicated servers. Your e-mail is stored on and managed by an e-mail server; Usenet articles are stored on and propagated by Usenet servers; IRC chats are hosted on a network of IRC servers; and all the pages on the Web are hosted on millions of individual Web servers.

Instant messaging, however, doesn’t use servers at all. When you send an instant message to another user, that message goes directly to that user; it’s not filtered by or stored on any dedicated servers. The technical name for this type of connection is peer-to-peer (P2P), because the two computers involved are peers to each other.


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