Let me try to explain the whole photon business as I understand it, thanks to many people on this forum (including lightarrow), and from my own independent reading. The oscillatory energy of Planck's 'harmonic oscillators', E, equals nhν. In otherwords, E is an integer multiple of hν (h is Planck's constant and ν is the frequency of the oscillation). The number 'n' is the number of photons (of energy hν) that any single oscillator has. If these oscillators are charged, then they produce oscillations in their surrounding electromagnetic fields with the same oscillatory energy, E, as the charged oscillator. These EM waves are light and when we say there are photons of light we mean that the oscillation in the electromagnetic field has an energy equal to 'n', the number of photons, times hν. Now, knowing this, I disagree that these photons and the so-called 'virtual photons' are essentially the same, unless it can be shown that there are harmonic oscillators inside of individual charged particles (electrons for example). By giving the mediators of the EM force the name 'photon,' we are comparing them to the photons of Planck, which are packages of energy of the value hν. This suggests that 'virtual photons' arise from oscillations of harmonic oscillators inside of the charged particles. But, charges need not oscillate to be attracted or repelled from each other. So, either they are not photons in that they are packets of oscillatory energy, or electrons have little harmonic oscillators in them like black bodies have atoms inside of them which generate these 'virtual photons'. This is not consistent with current particle theory wherein electrons are leptons, which are fundamental particles and cannot be broken down into anything smaller.