A contact list
is a collection of screen names in an instant messaging
Instant Messaging is a form of real-time direct text-based chatting communication in push mode between two or more people using personal computers or other devices, along with shared clients. The user's text is conveyed over a network, such as the Internet...
Electronic mail, commonly known as email or e-mail, is a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients. Modern email operates across the Internet or other computer networks. Some early email systems required that the author and the recipient both be online at the...
program or online game
An online game is a game played over some form of computer network. This almost always means the Internet or equivalent technology, but games have always used whatever technology was current: modems before the Internet, and hard wired terminals before modems...
or mobile phone
A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...
. It has various trademarked and proprietary names in different contexts.
The contact list just a list: generally a window that has a list of screennames that represent actual other people. Double-clicking on any name will open an instant messaging session and allow you to talk with that person. Usually, if somebody shows up in your contact list, your screen name will show up in theirs.
Some text message clients allow you to change your display name at will (MSN Messenger), while others only allow you to reformat your screen name (Add/remove spaces and capitalize letters). Generally, it makes no difference other than how it's displayed.
With most programs, the contact list can be minimized to keep it from getting in the way, and is accessed again by double-clicking its icon (on a PC).
The style of the contact list is different with the different programs, but all contact lists have similar capabilities.
Such lists may be used to form contact networks, or social network
A social network is a social structure made up of individuals called "nodes", which are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige.Social...
s with more specific purposes. The list is not the network: to become a network, a list requires some additional information such as the status or category of the contact. Given this, contact networks for various purposes can be generated from the list. Salespeople have long maintained contact networks using a variety of means of contact including phone logs and notebooks. None of them would confuse their list with their network, nor would they confuse a sales contact with a "friend" or person they had already worked with.