August 26, 2004 -- America Online released a study Tuesday showing that across the country the use of Instant Messaging platforms has increased dramatically, especially at work.

According to The Second Annual Instant Messaging Trends Study, conducted by Opinion Research Corp. for AOL, almost 60% of them said they used IM, noting that the most common use was for keeping in touch with family or friends (92%). But in a sign of a growing trend, more than 27% of all IM users stated they used the platform while at work, a 71% increase from the year before.

"I am pleased with the growth of IM at the workplace because it shows that IM has become an important tool," said Edmund Fish, AOL's senior vice president for desktop messaging. "While some of the use is personal, most is professional."

According to those who said they IM at work, 70% said they co it for "business-related purposes," with 44% saying it helps them get more done during the work day.

In addition to conversation and communication uses, the platform is also used by 27% of respondents to exchange files at work; 19% use it to exchange Web site addresses with co-workers and 21% said they use it to set up meetings.

The survey also pointed to new advancements in technology allowing people to stay in touch even while out of the office. More than 34% of all IM users have deployed a mobile device, such as a PDA or cell phone, to IM another person while 44% of those at work used a mobile device to send messages to colleagues or clients. More than 70% admit they would rather send an IM versus talking on the phone and 36% said they use it while on "crowded public transportation."

Perhaps the most surprising finding was that almost 30% say they send "as many if not more" IMs than e-mails, indicating a further push away from so-called "older" communications. A book titled "Instant Messaging Rules: A Business Guide to Managing Policies, Security and Legal Issues for Safe IM Communication" was published earlier this year to tap this trend. For more information on the study, visit media.aoltimewarner.com.