Apparently AOL just was awarded
patent (filed in 1997) on Instant Messaging
software.  This is insanity.  “Chat” applications have
been around as long as the Internet
itself. 
[Managed Space]

Exactly. finger/talk anyone? I used these to
determine if people were online and to then talk to them over a
decade ago. Didn’t the old pre-Internet AOL and Compuserve include
network user chats too?