A chat is a real-time communication between at least two people taking place on the Internet. According to digopaul, the term comes from English, where it means “to chat”. Originally, internet chats were purely text-based, today audio and video chats are also possible.
- Communication in a chat can take place almost synchronously.
- The first programs for text-based real-time communication between two people were developed as early as the early 1970s.
- With the advent of so-called instant messengers (IM), the anonymity problem was partially defused.
Chatting on the Internet: virtual conversations in real time
Communication in a chat takes place almost at the same time and is not offset over a long period of time, as is the case in e-mail communication, for example. The chatters type their contributions into an input field and then send them off. After that, the contribution is immediately visible to the other person. Video and audio chats are also possible.
In text-based chat, correct use of the language is usually not the focus. Single words or half sentences as well as colloquial expressions and dialects give the language in the chat a slang character. Typing and grammatical errors are common, punctuation marks and upper and lower case are almost irrelevant. Smilies are used to illustrate irony or joy. For example, “:-)” should represent a smiling face. Acronyms are also very popular in chats, for example the expression “lol”, which stands for “laughing out loud”.
Back then: IRC and anonymous chat rooms
The first programs for text-based real-time communication between two people were developed as early as the early 1970s. The breakthrough of the chat did not begin until the end of the 80s with the invention of the Internet Relay Chat (IRC). For the first time, the IRC made it possible for several people to chat with one another over the Internet at the same time. With the IRC, so-called chat rooms were also born: users can choose between public and private IRC channels, in which several hundred chatters can chat at the same time. The IRC is still used today, especially by the gamer scene.
Around the turn of the millennium, numerous websites were established that began to offer their users a platform with various chat rooms. The rooms are divided thematically or according to cities and regions. People of different origins and different age groups can meet there. However, the big boom in these chat websites is over. The chat websites were mainly replaced by instant messengers and social networks, which also offer opportunities for chatting.
For many, the attraction of the individual chat rooms was to talk to strangers. But the anonymity of the chat rooms also poses a problem: users can never be sure whether the person opposite is really what he or she claims to be.
Today: instant messengers and smartphones
With the advent of so-called instant messengers (IM), the anonymity problem was partially defused. The best-known representatives of these chat programs include WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype and Telegram. The advantage of IMs is that users can create a contact list of people. IMs are mainly used for private conversations between two people who know each other. But you can also subscribe to public profiles via Telegram.
The contact list shows who is currently online and ready to chat. For this reason, IMs have replaced the telephone for many: The contact list makes it easy to see whether a person is currently available for a conversation. In addition to text-based chats, many IM programs also offer video and audio chats. The Internet telephony service Skype is one of the best-known representatives of audio chat programs.
Thanks to smartphones and mobile internet, users can take their chat programs with them wherever they go and are available around the clock. The big advantage is that the chat calls are free. The chatters only have to pay for the internet connection, which is usually done on a flat rate basis.