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Note: Many topics at this site are reduced versions of the text in "The Encyclopedia of Networking and Telecommunications." Search results will not be as extensive as a search of the book's CD-ROM.

The Internet is famous for chat rooms-places where people meet and discuss topics of any nature. You join a chat room and start taking part in the conversation already underway, or start your own chat room. You might even take some of the participants of one chat room with you to a newly formed chat room. While chat rooms are an Internet phenomenon, they can also serve a useful purpose on company intranets, providing a place to hold virtual meetings, training sessions, and similar collaborative activities.

When you enter a chat room, you can use your name or, in the case of graphical chat rooms, take on an iconic representation (called an avatar) that represents your personality in cyberspace. Avatars may be famous people, monsters, or objects. If a chat room supports virtual reality, you can move around in 3-D space, bump into other avatars, and have a conversation with them. Of course, much of this technology is still developing. Voice- and video-based chat rooms will be supported more widely as bandwidth increases.

IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is one of the most popular chat systems. It has been around since the 1980 and has grown in features and popularity. IRC consists of a client that runs on users' computers and IRC servers, which exist all over the Internet but can also be installed on company intranets for internal use. The IRC tracks different discussions and makes sure that messages directed to discussions are broadcast to all the people participating in those discussions. Refer to "IRC (Internet Relay Chat)" for more information.

The popular Internet service AOL (America Online) has an instant messaging service that provides a service-wide chat scheme. As an AOL subscriber, you can create a buddy list of people you want to chat with when you sign on. When the people on your buddy list sign on, you are alerted and can send them instant messages. See "Instant Messaging."

An application from ICQ, Inc. called ICQ (pronounced "I seek you") provides a similar service for anyone on the Internet that runs the application. You create a list of people you want to communicate with and ICQ tracks when those people get on the Internet so you can exchange instant messages and join chat rooms. Note that ICQ Inc. was formerly known as Mirabilis, but AOL bought the company in 1998 and changed the name. PeopleLink ( is another provider of these services.

Copyright (c) 2001 Tom Sheldon and Big Sur Multimedia.
All rights reserved under Pan American and International copyright conventions.