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And the places that remained on the fringes were categorically gross: full of spam and sludge and a/s/l-style solicitation, a far cry from the supportive communities of the late ‘80s.

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“Chat, always burdened with a slightly seedy reputation …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.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.is undergoing a major makeover,” enthused one 1997 trend piece in the Irish Times.

Chatrooms were showing up in business software packages, such as Lotus and Oracle.

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.

In one early “channel,” described by Info World in 1984, users did nothing but speak Old English and roleplay as kings and maidens.

In others, a form of radical, soul-baring honesty was fairly common; between the fake names, the small communities, and the hours of online contact, the idea of intimacy became “very seductive,” one user told Info World.

The rooms had become a favored hangout not only of teenagers and technophiles, but of stay-at-home moms. ” one frequent chat-er joked in 1996.) And companies that had previously eschewed their own stand-alone chat services, such as Yahoo and MSN, were beginning to offer their own.