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Glossary » chat


software that enables multiple people in realtime to write messages in a public space, usually in typewritten text. As each person submits a message, it appears at the bottom of a scrolling screen.

Chat groups are usually formed by having a list of chat rooms to meet in. Rooms may be identified by name, location, number of people, topic of discussion, and so forth. Many systems allow for rooms with controlled access or with moderators to lead the discussions. Almost all of the interesting issues in realtime groupware are manifested in direct ways by chat rooms, including issues of anonymity, following the stream of conversation, scalability with number of users, and abusive users.

While chat-like systems are possible using non-text media, the text version of chat has the rather interesting aspect of having a direct transcript of the conversation, which not only has long-term value, but allows for backward reference during conversation, and which makes it easier for people to drop in a conversation and still pick up on the ongoing thread of discourse.