There are plenty of IM networks available but most must connect to a remote server, something which is unnecessary for a business, school or home network and lowers the network's performance. It also makes IM impractical on networks not connected online for security reasons.
Some IM networks can easily be adapted to run on a LAN. One example is Jabber, where numerous clients and servers exist. This article provides simple instructions on how to set a Jabber server - for LAN use - under Linux.
Using Bonjour, Apple's auto-discovering networking tool, is another option. The beauty of using Bonjour is that no server is required and, to my knowledge, all communication is peer-to-peer. Bonjour is available on OS X, Linux and Windows (nb Windows users will have to install it). Pidgin provides for instant messaging via Bonjour. iChat can work in a similar fashion on OS X, and Miranda supports Bonjour if a plug-in is installed.
netsend is another method of sending messages between machines with Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, XP and 2003 installed on them. To use netsend, go into command prompt and simply enter
net send recepient_name text_of_the_message. Recepient name is the user's account on the network or the computer's name. netsend is not polished and requires a little more effort to actually communicate, as a recepient must be specified every time (making it slightly slower to use than other IM solutions).
Another option is BORGChat, although that looks increasingly aged and is not really developed, not having left beta since it started being developed in 2002.
It is worth noting the above options are all free and will not cost $1000s like some enterprise internal IM tools available!
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.