Back in the early 2000s, our online conversations migrated to the world of social networking. Instant messaging, and commenting served as the new mode of online communication, and chat rooms came to be seen as unpleasantly tacky rather than commonly useful. Sure, you may see chat rooms around today, but most of them are either used by a specific group or individuals just wanting to get – ahem – a show.
At least chat rooms are still around. You probably know that they aren’t necessarily dead – they just aren’t the public channel of text-form conversation. I’d liken the modern chat room to that of a sophisticated club where only a specific group of clientele patronize (and no, I’m not referring to those that exhibit a certain type of entertainment).
If you’re still interested in the wonderful world of chat rooms (or perhaps you just have a hankering to return to the days of IRC), then you might like these web apps that bring chat back to your desktop. These apps are targeted primarily at those of you who set up websites, but they may be interesting to those of you who don’t, as well.
If you’re familiar with the PHP interface, then phpFreeChat may be of some interest to you. In short, it’s an open-source, AJAX-based chat server that can be implemented in your own website to create your own free chat room. Of course, it will take some technical know-how to get things properly installed, but it’s also a good step to generating a real-time communication method for your own online community.
For those of you who bask in the pleasure of coding, phpFreeChat is supposedly relatively easy to install, and it doesn’t even require you to set up a database. Furthermore, it includes a nice assortment of styles and themes to choose from.
For those of you who want a cleaner, free option for chatting, there’s always Balloons.io. The app requires you to sign in using Facebook or Twitter, and although this may seem to be a bit of nuisance for some, it’s nice that it incorporates social media. Based on what I saw, the web app allows for all rooms to be public, and you can create one anytime.
The good side is that all of this is for free and is quite easy to use. The bad side is that you can’t create private rooms using the website itself, and you also can’t embed rooms within your own website. Beyond that, it works, and I could see where people could make use of it. As a note, the code for Balloons.io is entirely open source, so you may be able to modify things a bit.
So maybe social networking isn’t your thing, and you might want something a bit beefier than what phpFreeChat has to offer. Well, there’s always addonChat, a Java-based chat applet that incorporates quite a few features that take us back to the golden days of online chat rooms.
This app is relatively easy to install since it integrates seamlessly with your website, but its features are primarily for those of you who are out to start a thriving community. With four packages to choose from and features such as profanity filters and custom avatars, addonChat is designed to function as your website’s primary source of communication.
Bear in mind that the free option has advertising and the inability to add your own logo, and the paid versions (with more features) start at $80.
Let’s be real for just a second, though. Generally speaking, people aren’t communicating on a regular basis with chat rooms anymore. Open conversations are held on Facebook walls, and Tweets connect you directly to a product or a community. The conversations may not necessarily be in real time, but at least we have IM for more personal conversations. With that said, are chat rooms dead? No. The above three web apps are blatant evidence that this isn’t the case.
However, I’d say that they are definitely on life support. But hey… then again, we have Google Hangouts.
What do you think, “Interneteers”? Do you use chat rooms on a regular basis? Have you ever made use of the above web chat apps? Am I completely and totally wrong about chat rooms nearing the end of their lives? Will there in fact be a chat room renaissance?
Let’s see what you have to say in the comments.