The term chat room, or chatroom, is primarily used to describe any form of synchronous conferencing, occasionally even asynchronous conferencing. The term can thus mean any technology ranging from real-time online chat and online interaction with strangers (e.g., online forums) to fully immersive graphical social environments.
The primary use of a chat room is to share information via text with a group of other users. Generally speaking, the ability to converse with multiple people in the same conversation differentiates chat rooms from instant messaging programs, which are more typically designed for one-to-one communication. The users in a particular chat room are generally connected via a shared interest or other similar connection, and chat rooms exist catering for a wide range of subjects. New technology has enabled the use of file sharing and webcam to be included in some programs. This can be considered a chat room.
The first online chat system was called Talkomatic, created by Doug Brown and David R. Woolley in 1973 on the PLATO System at the University of Illinois. It offered several channels, each of which could accommodate up to five people, with messages appearing on all users' screens character-by-character as they were typed. Talkomatic was very popular among PLATO users into the mid-1980s. In 2014 Brown and Woolley released a web-based version of Talkomatic.