Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

I've tried every MSN Messenger on web and they are all blocked! Can someone please tell me one that the school hasn't blocked yet?

At my job they've blocked instant messenger, even if though it's a good tool for my work. I used to connected using one of the web services, but that's been blocked as well. Are there other sites that I can use without downloading an IM client?

My school won't let me IM and I'm gonna die! Help me!!!

I regularly get several variations on this question.

You might think that last one is a bit extreme, but let me tell you, it's not that uncommon. And I've had to heavily correct the grammar, spelling and even the general tone of all of them.

But you get the idea. Instant Messaging has become a critical component of social and occasionally even business life.

So what do you do if your school or business cuts you off?

For kids in school my answer is simple: get over it! Seriously. Schools block instant messaging for a reason - it can seriously detract from the time you're supposed to be doing other things. Like paying attention in class or studying.

"For kids in school my answer is simple: get over it!"

Yes, yes, I'm sure it's not a problem for you. You can probably do twelve things at once, and the teacher's boring, and your friends in other schools can all instant message at will. It's so not fair.

I'm sorry. Too bad. Get over it. Focus on your school work, and talk to your friends later - they'll still be there. (And if they're not, they weren't really your friends, now were they?)

For folks in business, naturally the answer is somewhat different.

Businesses tend to block IM'ing for several of the same reasons that school does. It's often too much of a distraction from work. On top of that, it's yet another way that information can leak out of the company uncontrolled. There are also serious legal and liability issues that might well constrain a company from allowing private conversations over company owned equipment.

Talk to your manager or your IT department. Make a solid business case for why Instant Messaging is important to how you perform your job. Don't make it about chatting with the spouse or your friends ... your workplace isn't interested. But if there's a legitimate reason that IM can help you do your job better or more effectively, then by all means make the case. You might get an exception, or you might actually change company policy.

Or you might get no results at all. In which case I can only repeat what I said to the school kids: get over it. Or, if it's that important enough to you, or perhaps it's just a symptom of another, larger problem in your work place, change jobs if you must.

OK, so what about bypassing the blocks?

Well, in case you can't tell by now, I don't recommend it. In my opinion, it's the generally the wrong thing to do.

There are a handful of web sites that will let you send instant messages without actually downloading an IM client. A good example is MSN's Web Messenger - http://webmessenger.msn.com - which will allow you to IM with other MSN Instant Messenger clients by using a Web-based interface. There are other, third party sites out there as well which will do the same thing, often with other IM services such as AIM, Yahoo and others.

Folks, it's a losing battle. Find 'em if you like. Use 'em if you must, but don't be surprised if they get blocked within days or even hours. Clearly any school or business that goes through the trouble of blocking these services is doing so for a reason. And they'll find out about the ways to work around it, just like you did. Perhaps even because you did.

Another risk, of course, is that these sites need your account information in order to work. Do you trust them? Do you trust them to keep that information safe and secure? To be honest, I'm not sure I would.

Remember, depending on the rules at your school or company, you could be putting your education, or your job, at risk.

I'm going to take the unusual step of not accepting comments on this article for two reasons:

  • I'd expect a number of less than supportive comments from the teen and pre-teen crowd, who'll simply argue using insults, bad grammar, bad spelling and inappropriate language.
  • I don't want this to become a repository for a list of possible IM by-passing sites. I'm sure you can find other places for that if you look.

As always, if you have a legitimate question, you're welcome to add it to my queue.

Article C2584 - March 7, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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