Those of us who were chatters in the 1990’s might find ourselves looking around our virtual landscape of today, blinking profusely while asking, “What happened to my favorite chat site?” Most of the quaint chat sites we grew up on have vanished. Either technology gains have left them vulnerable to exploit or the cost to run and update the site was more than was being generated.
Sites like The-Park founded in 1994 grew to 700,000 registered members before shutting down in 2001. TalkCity is now DelphiForums and countless others still exist for nostalgic reasons rather than functional ones
Omni-Chat, with rooms like Chatterbox were incredibly popular in the 90’s for allowing users to post pictures and text with HTML code. I remember trying to figure out all the “secret” codes to get text to blink and change color. But today it is scattered with posts by people like myself going back to see what’s happened to their favorite chat.
As the chatter stated in his post there was no Facebook or smartphones, Chat Sites were the social media of the day. However, the ability to post HTML which spurred the sites growth surly played a part in its demise as people began to learn how to break the chat with the same code. The inherent vulnerabilities in allowing users to pass HTML code, caused connectivity issues amongst similar systems and forced owners to choose between continually fixing the breaks, upgrading to a newer technology or giving up altogether.
Sites like 321Chat and Chat-Avenue broke onto the scene in 2000’ and 2002’ using a Java based chat-software called DigiChat. Digichat utilized the latest Java Script technology and offered a fast and sleek, avatar and text based chat room that stood apart from everything other than behemoth companies like AOL which dominated the online market at the time. DigiChat remained the webs best chat option for about 8 years. But just as the case was for Omni-Chat, people began to figure out how to break the chat platform; this time a higher level of tech knowledge. The repeated breaches were too much for the DigiChat company to continue to patch and they simply stopped releasing updates or patches.
Java Script based chat rooms are becoming a thing of the past as more and more browsers are not allowing Java applets to run. This has pushed many chat site owners to other chat platforms like 123FlashChat which has recently shut down its website leaving webmaster running the software on their own when it comes to patches and updates.
Tech exploits are not the only reasons chat site close. Social deviants victimizing people online through phishing schemes and attacks on children are also to blame. For some larger chat platforms, the sporadic, disturbing oddities that occur throughout chat rooms has been a major cause of disconcert. The ability for Pedophiles to engage with children aided by the anonymity of the inter has been a major concern of larger companies fearful of a massive lawsuit.
After a long run (centuries in the virtual spectrum of time, really), the mainstream era of the online chatrooms began taking real hits around 2010, when AOL’s Instant Messenger put an end to its chat rooms; Yahoo Chat Rooms would follow suit in 2012, and the final blow would be MSN Messenger shutting down its services in China, the last place where it was still operational. Just like that, the unassuming masses had the large majority of their chat options cut off completely.
This was a response to an evolving set of needs from the average consumer, so the only people who really noticed the disappearance of the chat rooms were aficionados of the form, and that subculture had been drastically thinning for a while already.
In a growing internet, online chat rooms were the best option for mainstream virtual communication, bar none. As the internet progressed to its adolescence, however, the dynamic of chat rooms changed (the frontier virtual spaces were being progressively gentrified and monetized, and the fringe rooms were becoming exclusively disgusting), this coincided with the upcoming of new virtual domains for social networking (in the first major way with Myspace, and in the second, final way with Facebook). We’ve been seeing the overwhelming presence of chat rooms pushed further and further into a cultural corner due largely to the changing needs of the mainstream, and new technologies honoring those needs and suggesting new ones in tandem.
All of that said, today’s online playground sees social networking megagiants like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter holding the most visible real estate, while traditional online chatrooms take a quiet space by the fringe. For all dedicated nostalgists and diehard chat enthusiasts, there is certainly still much online conversational fun to be had.
In a funny twist of fate, once giants of the chat industry Yahoo and AOL have seen the success of mobile social networks like SnapChat and WhatsApp and want back in! LOL! AOL has launched AOL Desktop which allows people to access their Chat Rooms once again and Yahoo has updated their messenger app after years of letting it languish. I must admit I am torn as to how I feel about these developments. On one hand they may bring about the resurgence of chat rooms but on the other hand I hope they fail for casting off a service so many of us loved when they were on top.
Many of the chat rooms we grew up in are now gone and chat apps are not the same as chat rooms but rest assure there will always be a chat room for you at 321Chat.Com.
RIP you have been missed. (List of closed chat sites)