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Can We Talk? Exploring the History of Chatrooms



Sometimes, before you can figure out where you're going, you have to look at where you've been. With the advent of voice chat, it seems a good time to look back at the history of chatrooms and take a moment to reflect on the important role they have played as the internet has evolved.

Chat Way Back in the Day

Though it may seem hard to imagine it now, the first ever chatroom dates back to 1973 when Doug Brown and David R. Woolley invented Talkomatic. (Gotta love that name, right?) Talkomatic was part of a computer assisted instruction system used at the University of Illinois. The chat feature was limited and only five people could participate in chat at a time. Messages appeared on all users' screens, and each character appeared on the screen as it was typed.

While Talkomatic was not the most efficient chatroom to ever function, it was the first. A web version of the program was launched in 2014 for those who are nostalgic for the earliest days of chat.

Public Online Chatrooms Are Born

In 1978, a University of Essex student named Roy Trubshaw created a computer program that allowed people to join in a fantasy-based game from their home computers. The program was called MUD, or Multi-User Dungeon (a reference to the game Dungeons and Dragons). At first, the MUD program was only used by Trubshaw's friends, but soon there were other versions of MUD programs floating around, spreading throughout the internet, then in its infancy.

MUD programs were popular among computer-literate users, and by 1994, there were about 400 MUD programs in use, with people chatting about gaming and other topics of mutual interest.

Another significant development for online chat came in 1980. In Columbus, Ohio, Alexander Trevor introduced CompuServe's CB Simulator. Unlike Talkomatic, this chatroom program was for the public and was considerably closer in concept to the chatrooms of today.

IRC and Java Chat Make an Appearance

Jarkko Oikarinen created Internet Relay Chat (IRC) in 1988. Though it was originally designed as a sort of digital bulletin board, the functionality that most people enjoyed with it was the chat function.

By 1991, developers were working on a programming language that would come to be known as Java. Java, as you know, revolutionized the internet. With Java, suddenly internet users could use dynamic graphics and applications on the web. And Java chat rooms were born.

By 2003, 550 million computers were running with Java. And Java chatrooms were popular, because Java enabled chatrooms to be directly embedded into a website page. This meant that, for the first time, internet users could use chatrooms straight from their browser. Even today, Java chat is being used on websites around the globe, both by individuals and by businesses.

Instant Messaging and Voice Chat

Instant messaging services entered the chat world in the mid-1990s. Popular chatroom service providers were Yahoo! Messenger, AOL, and MSN Messenger. Those chatrooms have now passed into history, and a modern breed of chatrooms has emerged.


Chatrooms survive because people love to talk!

Some chatrooms now have videoconferencing capability woven in, making it possible to chat and actually hear the voice of other chatroom participants. It is a far cry from Talkomatic back in the day, but it exists because of the same basic premise. People love to talk!

At Wireclub, you can join free online chat rooms and indulge your love of chatting with friends and meeting new people. Wireclub has hundreds of rooms already established. If you prefer, you can create your own chatroom or message people directly and chat with instant messages. Get started today!