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The rooms had become a favored hangout not only of teenagers and technophiles, but of stay-at-home moms. ” one frequent chat-er joked in 1996.) And companies that had previously eschewed their own stand-alone chat services, such as Yahoo and MSN, were beginning to offer their own.
In some ways, in fact, chatrooms were experiencing a cultural shift similar to one much-discussed on Facebook today: a space that was once a frontier, was being standardized, monetized — colonized by moms.
In one early “channel,” described by Info World in 1984, users did nothing but speak Old English and roleplay as kings and maidens.
In others, a form of radical, soul-baring honesty was fairly common; between the fake names, the small communities, and the hours of online contact, the idea of intimacy became “very seductive,” one user told Info World.
is undergoing a major makeover,” enthused one 1997 trend piece in the Irish Times.
Chatrooms were showing up in business software packages, such as Lotus and Oracle.
[But] the danger is that going online instead of going into the real world ultimately turns conversation into a spectator sport.” For users, of course, this kind of outsider bemusement was half the motivation.
Combine that with the advent of new Internet technologies like DSL (which made AOL’s subscription model obsolete) and new paradigms for online social networking (think Friendster, Myspace and later, Facebook) and the chatroom’s demise was obvious, if not imminent, by the early aughts.
Facebook chose an odd time to launch Rooms, its homage to the classic ’90s chatroom.
AOL’s Instant Messenger, perhaps the icon of the anonymous instant-messaging age, quietly killed off its chat rooms in 2010.
And despite the panicked testimony of then-senator Herb Kohl just two years prior (“Most Americans don’t know what it is out there on the Internet,” he told a Senate committee, “and if they did they would be shocked”), the influx of new users was helping chatrooms shed their previously shady, transgressive image.
“Chat, always burdened with a slightly seedy reputation …
PLATO had been designed for classroom use; according to its creators’ original plans, “communication between people would play [only] an incidental role.” But as more people signed on to the community, its participants began to notice something striking: In the freewheeling, pseudonymous realm of PLATO, people began to form highly personal, social connections that had nothing to do with academics. “People met and got acquainted in Talkomatic, and carried on romances via “term-talk” and Personal Notes,” one of its creators, David Woolley, wrote in his 1994 history of the program. Many people traveled to Urbana to see the lab and meet those of us who worked there …