In this typical online chat program, the window to the left shows a list of contacts, and the window to the right shows a conversation between the user and one of those contacts.

Online chat is any kind of communication over the Internet that offers a real-time transmission of text messages from sender to receiver. Chat messages are generally short in order to enable other participants to respond quickly. Thereby, a feeling similar to a spoken conversation is created, which distinguishes chatting from other text-based online communication forms such as Internet forums and email. Online chat may address point-to-point communications as well as multicast communications from one sender to many receivers and voice and video chat, or may be a feature of a web conferencing service.

Online chat in a less stringent definition may be primarily any direct text-based or video-based (webcams), one-on-one chat or one-to-many group chat (formally also known as synchronous conferencing), using tools such as instant messengers, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), talkers and possibly MUDs or other online games. The expression online chat comes from the word chat which means "informal conversation". Online chat includes web-based applications that allow communication – often directly addressed, but anonymous between users in a multi-user environment. Web conferencing is a more specific online service, that is often sold as a service, hosted on a web server controlled by the vendor.


The first online chat system was called Talkomatic, created by Doug Brown and David R. Woolley in 1973 on the PLATO System at the University of Illinois. It offered several channels, each of which could accommodate up to five people, with messages appearing on all users' screens character-by-character as they were typed. Talkomatic was very popular among PLATO users into the mid-1980s. In 2014, Brown and Woolley released a web-based version of Talkomatic.[1]

The first online system to use the actual command "chat" was created for The Source in 1979 by Tom Walker and Fritz Thane of Dialcom, Inc.[2]

Other chat platforms flourished during the 1980s. Among the earliest with a GUI was BroadCast, a Macintosh extension that became especially popular on university campuses in America and Germany.[3]

The first transatlantic Internet chat took place between Oulu, Finland and Corvallis, Oregon in February 1989.[4]

The first dedicated online chat service that was widely available to the public was the CompuServe CB Simulator in 1980,[5][6] created by CompuServe executive Alexander "Sandy" Trevor in Columbus, Ohio. Ancestors include network chat software such as UNIX "talk" used in the 1970s.[citation needed]

Chat is implemented in many video-conferencing tools. A study of chat use during work-related videoconferencing found that chat during meetings allows participants to communicate without interrupting the meeting, plan action around common resources, and enables greater inclusion.[7] The study also found that chat can cause distractions and information asymmetries between participants.


The term chatiquette (chat etiquette) is a variation of netiquette (Internet etiquette) and describes basic rules of online communication.[8][9][10] These conventions or guidelines have been created to avoid misunderstandings and to simplify the communication between users. Chatiquette varies from community to community and generally describes basic courtesy. As an example, it is considered rude to write only in upper case, because it appears as if the user is shouting. The word "chatiquette" has been used in connection with various chat systems (e.g. Internet Relay Chat) since 1995.[11][12]

Chatrooms can produce a strong sense of online identity leading to impression of subculture.[13]

Chats are valuable sources of various types of information, the automatic processing of which is the object of chat/text mining technologies.[14]

Social criticism

Criticism of online chatting and text messaging include concern that they replace proper English with shorthand or with an almost completely new hybrid language.[15][16][17]

Writing is changing as it takes on some of the functions and features of speech. Internet chat rooms and rapid real-time teleconferencing allow users to interact with whoever happens to coexist in cyberspace. These virtual interactions involve us in 'talking' more freely and more widely than ever before.[18] With chatrooms replacing many face-to-face conversations, it is necessary to be able to have quick conversation as if the person were present, so many people learn to type as quickly as they would normally speak. Some critics[who?] are wary that this casual form of speech is being used so much that it will slowly take over common grammar; however, such a change has yet to be seen.

With the increasing population of online chatrooms there has been a massive growth[19] of new words created or slang words, many of them documented on the website Urban Dictionary. Sven Birkerts wrote:

"as new electronic modes of communication provoke similar anxieties amongst critics who express concern that young people are at risk, endangered by a rising tide of information over which the traditional controls of print media and the guardians of knowledge have no control on it".[20]

In Guy Merchant's journal article Teenagers in Cyberspace: An Investigation of Language Use and Language Change in Internet Chatrooms; Merchant says

"that teenagers and young people are in the leading the movement of change as they take advantage of the possibilities of digital technology, drastically changing the face of literacy in a variety of media through their uses of mobile phone text messages, e-mails, web-pages and on-line chatrooms. This new literacy develops skills that may well be important to the labor market but are currently viewed with suspicion in the media and by educationalists.[18]

Merchant also says "Younger people tend to be more adaptable than other sectors of society and, in general, quicker to adapt to new technology. To some extent they are the innovators, the forces of change in the new communication landscape."[18] In this article he is saying that young people are merely adapting to what they were given.

Software and protocols

The following are common chat programs and protocols:

Chat programs supporting multiple protocols:

Web sites with browser-based chat services (also see web chat):

See also


  1. ^ "PLATO | computer-based education system". Britannica. Archived from the original on 17 November 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  2. ^ "DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION OF A MULTILINGUAL CHAT APPLICATION". Archived from the original on 17 November 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  3. ^ Molly McKinney (19 November 1998). ""Sell a Couch or Make a New Friend: Broadcast Provides Potential Mind Games and Hookups." The Wooster Voice, November 19, 1998, p.8". The Voice: 1991-2000. Archived from the original on 2 July 2019. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
  4. ^ "The 'Security Digest' Archives (TM) : TCP-IP Distribution List for February 1989". Archived from the original on 8 December 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  5. ^ "CompuServe Innovator Resigns After 25 Years", The Columbus Dispatch, 11 May 1996, p. 2F.
  6. ^ Mike Pramik, "Wired and Inspired", The Columbus Dispatch, (Business page), 12 November 2000.
  7. ^ Sarkar, Advait; Rintel, Sean; Borowiec, Damian; Bergmann, Rachel; Gillett, Sharon; Bragg, Danielle; Baym, Nancy; Sellen, Abigail (8 May 2021), "The promise and peril of parallel chat in video meetings for work", Extended Abstracts of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery, pp. 1–8, doi:10.1145/3411763.3451793, ISBN 978-1-4503-8095-9, S2CID 233987188, retrieved 1 November 2021
  8. ^ "IRC Chatiquette – Chat Etiquette". 28 November 1995. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  9. ^ "BBC - WebWise - How do I use instant messaging (IM)?". Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  10. ^ Using the Internet for Active Teaching and Learning, Steven C. Mills Archived 19 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine ISBN 0-13-110546-9
  11. ^ "Electronic Discourse - On Speech and Writing on the Internet - 3. Internet Relay Chat Discourse". Archived from the original on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  12. ^ CNET reviews - comparative reviews - chat clients - chatiquette The Internet Archive
  13. ^ Regina Lynn (4 May 2007). "Virtual Rape Is Traumatic, but Is It a Crime?". Wired. Archived from the original on 20 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Texor". Yatsko's Computational Linguistics Laboratory. Archived from the original on 1 November 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  15. ^ Zimmer, Ben. Language Log: Shattering the illusions of texting Archived 16 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine, University of Pennsylvania, 18 September 2008.
  16. ^ Liberman, Mark. Language Log: Texting and language skills Archived 15 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine, University of Pennsylvania, 2 August 2012.
  17. ^ Zwicky, Arnold. Language Log: The decline of writing in Dingburg Archived 16 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine, www.aarichats.comUniversity of Pennsylvania. 19 September 2008.
  18. ^ a b c Merchant, Guy . "Teenagers in cyberspace: an investigation of language use and language change in internet chatrooms." Journal of Research in Reading. 2001, Vol. 24, Iss. 3, ISSN 0141-0423.
  19. ^ Topping, Alexandra (10 June 2009). "'Web 2.0' declared millionth word in English language". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 24 October 2016.
  20. ^ Birkerts, S. "Sense and semblance: The implications of virtuality." In B. Cox (Ed.), Literacy is not enough. Manchester University Press. 1998