A variation on the interactive message board, it is a Web site for live, online conversation in which any number of computer users can type messages to each other and communicate IRT. These messages usually appear on an area of the screen next to the user's nickname or handle. Most chat rooms have a particular topic (which you are expected to discuss), but some chat rooms are purely for meeting other people. Other chat rooms are designed as elaborate 3-D environments, where you select an avatar that represents you in this virtual meeting place.
Online chat rooms started life as Internet Relay Chat (IRC) developed in 1988 by Finland's Jarkko Oikarinen. The system went largely unnoticed until 1991, when it was used to report the Soviet coup attempt despite a media blackout.
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NetLingo Classification: Online Jargon
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