If you experienced the rise of instant messaging in the 1990s, those acronyms can be very nostalgia-inducing. But IMing with friends and strangers online wasn’t only fun and exciting, but revolutionary: though we take instant communication for granted today, the advent of instant messaging changed the way people communicate forever.
Before the Internet era, phone calls were the only instant form of communication available to most people. Calling outside your area, sometimes even to the next town over, could result in hefty long-distance fees, and the complications of setting up conversations with more than two participants made it not worth the trouble for most.
But with the advent of the World Wide Web and instant messaging in the 1990s, suddenly anyone with an Internet connection could instantly chat with people around the world, for just the cost of their monthly Internet subscription. It didn’t matter whether you’d met them before or even knew each others’ real names; only that you both had access to the new world wide web.