From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A chat room or chatroom is a term used primarily by mass media to describe any form of synchronous conferencing, occasionally even asynchronous conferencing. The term can thus mean any technology ranging from real-time online chat over instant messaging and online forums to fully immersive graphical social environments.
Online chat is a way of communicating by sending text messages to people in the same chat room in real-time. The oldest form of true chat rooms are the text-based variety. The most popular of this kind is Internet Relay Chat (IRC). However, there are also talkers and havens. The popularity of these kinds of chat rooms have waned over the years, but IRC's popularity still remains strong. Also a notable number of people were introduced to chat rooms from AOL and web chat sites.
The most common form of online communication in recent times is instant messaging (ICQ, AIM, MSN, Jabber, etc). It can be argued that these are not truly chat rooms as they are characterized by being one on one conversations with people in a users "buddy list". Recently these systems have started to incorporate the ability to chat with multiple people simultaneously, but these are still conversations restricted to the user's buddy list, not a cocktail/block party style venue.
Chat rooms are often confused with asynchronous discussion groups, which are significantly different, since they do not take place in real time and are usually run over the World Wide Web.
Graphical multi-user environments
Visual chat rooms (Active Worlds, 2.5D Habbo Hotel, There (internet service), etc) add graphics to the chat experience, in either 2D or 3D (employing virtual reality technology). These are characterized by using a graphic representation of the user (avatar) that can be moved about a graphic background or in a graphic environment respectively.
These virtual worlds are capable of incorporating elements such as games (in particular massively multiplayer online games) and educational material most often developed by individual site owners, who in general are simply more advanced users of the systems. The most popular environments also allow users to create or build their own spaces.
Some visual chat rooms also incorporate audio and video communications, so that users may actually see and hear each other. However, some find these types of environments cumbersome to use and actually an impediment to chatting.
What to do in chat rooms
The primary use of a chat room is to share information via text with a group of other users. New technology has enabled the use of file sharing and webcams to be included in some programs.
Some people who visit chat rooms use them as a place to experience online sex, also known as cybersex. While not physically able to see their partner, cyber-ers apparently get stimulation by reading x-rated quotes. While many in the media focus on this aspect of chat rooms as it certainly boosts their ratings, it is by no means the only thing chat rooms are used for.
Games are also often played in chat rooms. Historic examples are initgame, Hunt the Wumpus on IRC or an AOL chatroom game in AOL chat rooms.
But the true use of a chat room is still to meet old and new people just like you would do in a bar, a pub, a lounge, a nightclub, a beer garden or at a party.
How to behave in chat rooms
Chat rooms usually have stringent rules that they require users to follow in order to maintain integrity and safety for their users. Particularly in rooms for children, rules usually do not allow users to use offensive language, or to promote hate, violence and other negative issues. Also chat rooms often do not allow advertising in their rooms or flooding, which is continually filling the screen with repetitive text. Chat rooms usually have a list of rules for users to obey when they chat online.
Sometimes chat room venues are moderated either by limiting who is allowed to speak (not common), or by having moderation volunteers patrol the venue watching for disruptive or otherwise undesirable behaviour.
All of these multi-user communication experiences have one technological aspect in common: They need to deliver data from a sender to a group of recipients. So-called one-to-many/many-to-many distribution is quite a technological headache in the field of routing. Some applications avoid the problem by having just one central server, resulting in a star topology with a risk of it becoming overloaded. Some employ decentralized servers, most notably Jabber, then send a copy of each message to each recipient by unicast, resulting in a full mesh topology and large overhead in network traffic. The most elaborate way to solve the issue is by the use of a multicast protocol which will try to get the information to each recipient along a spanning tree. Internet Relay Chat most notably uses this kind of approach.
- Chat Danger — How to keep safe when chatting online
- Chat Acronyms — Meanings of acronyms used in online chat
- The Psychology of Cyberspace Hypertext book exploring the psychological aspects of online environments by Dr. John Suler, Rider University
- Virtual Worlds Review Virtual worlds list maintained by online communities consultant
- Software untangles chat room debate
- For chat room sites, see Chat room at the Open Directory Project