Online chat (usually just chat) is a way of communicating electronically by way of short text messages that are passed instantly between participants. It is one of the oldest and most popular ways of using computer networks.
Confusingly, some call online message boards by the name of chat boards, but these work in a very different manner.
Some of the numerous chat services available provide public "chat rooms" that take many participants; others are individually-oriented and ad hoc. Some of the most popular types follow:
- Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a popular type run by many servers around the world. The channel #bcfriends was used by boylovers at one time.
- web chat (chatting via a web page) is often slower, but more easily accessible since one does not need a proper client. LifeLine is an example.
- instant messaging is mainly for one-to-one communication. Many IM clients have additional capabilities such as group messaging and file transfer capability.
The range of technical security measures vary wildly among services and service types. IRC has traditionally offered the least protection, while some networks offer benefits such as end-to-end encryption and hiding of IP addresses.