Does anybody even use chat rooms anymore? Besides the bots, that is? Or is it bots just annoying each other?
Chat rooms all started with IRC, the Internet Relay Chat system that actually predates the World Wide Web! IRC was sort of fun – it was like multiplayer Unix shell with a hundred commands that could do all kinds of stunts but which you needed a reference manual to look up the options for every time.
Then they came up with ICQ. If flower children from Haight-Ashbury designed a program while under too much angel dust, ICQ looked pretty close to what they would get. It was like the Fred Flintstone primitive instant messenger, but with silly features like manual typewriter noises, little Munchkin-voices “hello”s and “yoo-hoo”s, and of course your online, offline status was indicated by the color of a flower. It was still mainly a chat room app.
Then came AOL and Yahoo, and they killed the chat room deader than William Shatner’s career. “A/S/L??? ASL???” It stood for Age, Sex, and Location. This only mattered because the only thing you were supposed to do in chat was have cybersex. Come on, admit it, you tried cybersex once, too, didn’t you? Weren’t you just curious? And how much fun did you have? NONE! That’s what! You had no fun at all! Cybersex turned out to be about as sexy as having your parents in the room while you read National Geographic!
There is no limit to how brainless chat became after the great web explosion. When the bots came along, pushing Viagra, home mortgages, and dating services in the chats, you almost welcomed them. They were easy to spot; they were the only ones trying to carry on an intelligent conversation with you. Also, the bots were the only ones who could spell. Dead giveaway, right there.
Cell phones, VOIP networks, texting, and the social web have all killed the chat. Anything that’s too urgent to say on a blog is too urgent to send in chat. But don’t despair! If you really want a good, quality experience in an old fashioned chat, now is the time to enjoy it. IRC is still live and kicking, it’s easy enough that you can get it as a plug-in for your Firefox and point-n-click to start chatting, and is finally filled with nothing but smart people looking for some interesting time together. Just like you hoped chat would be like 20 years ago.
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