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Message switching is

[a] method of handling message traffic through a switching center, either from local users or from other switching centers, whereby the message traffic is stored and forwarded through the system.[1]


Message switching was the precursor of packet switching, where messages were routed in their entirety, one hop at a time.

It was first introduced by Leonard Kleinrock in 1961. Message switching systems are nowadays mostly implemented over packet-switched or circuit-switched data networks. Each message is treated as a separate entity. Each message contains addressing information, and at each switch this information is read and the transfer path to the next switch is decided.

Depending on network conditions, a conversation of several messages may not be transferred over the same path. Each message is stored (usually on hard drive due to RAM limitations) before being transmitted to the next switch. Because of this it is also know as a store-and-forward network. Email is a common application of message switching. A delay in delivering email is allowable unlike real-time data transfer between two computers.


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