Online Chat: Online chat refers to the text-based (keying or type words) communication between two or more participants over the internet / intranet in real-time. Sometime it is also known as synchronous conferencing, or Instant messaging (IM). Online chat is also referred to as web chat. The expression online chat comes from the word “chat” which means "informal conversation". In some chat program the users need to install some specialized software whereas in some others, only the internet browser is necessary. There are also Graphical User Interface (GUI) text-based chat rooms which allow users to select an identifying icon and to modify the look of their chat environment.
Synchronous conferencing or Real Time Chat is the formal term used particularly in computer-mediated communication, collaboration and learning, to describe online chat technologies. Today it is also occasionally extended to mean audio/video conferencing or instant messaging systems, provided that they also have a text-based multi-user chat function. Synchronous conferencing protocols include Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Protocol for Synchronous Conferencing (PSYC), Secure Internet Live Conferencing protocol (SILC), Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP).
Chatiquette describes the basic rules of online communication. To avoid misunderstanding and to simplify the communication between the users in a chat these conventions or guidelines have been created. Chatiquette varies from community to community, generally describing basic courtesy; it introduces the new user into the community and the associated network culture. As an example, in Chatiquette it is considered rude to write only in UPPER CASE, because it looks as if the user is shouting.
a) Types of Online Chat: Based on the number of users that participate in the chat it can be of the following types-
i) 1 – on – 1 Chat: 1-on-1 or private chat refers to an environment where only two people share their knowledge base.
ii) Group Chat: Here more than two people chat over an interface and share their thought.
Stranger Chat or anonymous chat is an environment where each other identity remains hidden.
Chat can also be categorized based on cost factor as commercial or paid and free; based on type of software used as Open Source (eg. Adium), and Proprietary (eg. Digsby).
b) Importance of Chat: Internet chat allows one to connect with people all over the world in real time. The primary use of a chat room is to share information via text with a group of other users. New technology has enabled the use of file sharing and webcams to be included in some programs and almost all Internet chat or messaging services allow users to display or send to each other photos.
c) Examples: There are thousands of chat programs available over the web. In the following, some commonly used free chat services are listed. An expertise in two or three will be an added advantage for you. We recommend you to use Google Talk or chat that is integrated with your Gmail. To use this service, you can use your own Gmail id and password.