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“Chat, always burdened with a slightly seedy reputation …is undergoing a major makeover,” enthused one 1997 trend piece in the Irish Times.In 1993, shortly after the debut of AOL’s chatroom, the Associated Press reported, hilariously, on the “team of young, high-tech specialists” who were trying to get President Bill Clinton to host a town hall chat.(His screenname was “Clinton Pz.”) By 1997, the year AOL launched Instant Messenger as a stand-alone chat product, the company boasted an estimated 19,000 chatrooms.
But in 1980, Compu Serve — one of the earliest commercial Internet services — would release its own take on the chat concept, allowing more than 123,000 to sign on nightly under screennames like “Mike” and “Silver.” (Both names are, incidentally, critical to chat room history: They were, on Valentine’s Day 1983, one of the first couples to marry as a result of online chat.) Even though Compu Serve’s “CB Simulator” was a commercial service, it shared something of the pioneering quirkiness of ye Talkomatic chats of old.
But by that point, all of AIM’s best features had become redundant: status messages could go on Twitter, detailed profiles could be made on Facebook, friends could be contacted via text or Gchat, people with similar interests could be found on any of the above.
In 2003, MSN axed many of its chatrooms across Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Talaria writes "Yahoo has announced that they are closing all of their chat rooms to anyone under eighteen, following an agreement with New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
Facebook chose an odd time to launch Rooms, its homage to the classic ’90s chatroom.
If the Internet was an uncharted wilderness, however, the ‘90s were its Gold Rush.