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.
You never knew quite what, or who, you would find in a Compuserve chat — or, later, a chat on AOL (c. AOL’s chief architect and longest-serving employee, Joe Schober, once described the earliest AOL chatrooms as “little frontier towns”: small and unpolished, perhaps, but pioneering — like a spark in the big Internet void.
If the Internet was an uncharted wilderness, however, the ‘90s were its Gold Rush.
(Seductive enough that most mainstream coverage of chat at the time focused on a phenomenon dubbed “Compu Sex.”) “To say this typewritten “human contact” or “people typing in their thoughts” is the equivalent of genuine friendship or intimacy is something else,” wrote Vic Sussman, struggling to understand the very concept of online community for The Washington Post in 1986.
As always, it's the added insights from the participants that creates the value for these chats.
Yahoo Messenger axed its public chat rooms in 2012, explaining only that they weren’t a “core Yahoo!
product.” And when MSN Messenger shuts down Friday in China, the last place where the service still operated, it will mark the conclusive end of the mainstream chatroom era.
It was primitive, by modern standards: Only five people could chat at once, and their messages displayed letter-by-letter as they typed.
But at the time, Talkomatic was something of a revelation.