ichat, Version 1.0
Text-Based Talk Gets A Friendlier Face
By Jon Kaufthal (07/19/96)
Many shy away from internet relay chat (IRC) forums because of their clunky and hard-to-learn interfaces. ichat may change all that. It's a
Netscape plug-in that enables text-based communication to take place in a window within a Web browser, while allowing for changes and
additional content on the page above that window.
What separates ichat from other IRC software is its simplicity. Once the plug-in has been downloaded and installed, everything is fully automatic. If
a user visits an ichat-enabled site, a chat window is automatically opened at the bottom of the users Web browser. Because the rest of the
browser remains connected, users can be taken on a guided tour that visits various Web pages, all while the chat window remains open at bottom
of the screen.
The ichat interface provides a toolbar and makes use of context-sensitive menus and tool tips. A window to the right of the main text window
shows a listing of everyone in the chat room, and clicking on a name brings up a menu of options that let you send a private message, read whatever
personal information the person has made available, or follow a person as he or she travels through different rooms. A separate menu supplies a list
of emotions that can be conveyed. Both windows can be hidden.
Another advantage of having a chat take place within a browser is that URLs can be inserted into a discussion as live links. This makes it possible
for someone to send you to a site without breaking communications. Version 2.0 of ichat, due out August 5th for both client and server, should
have several interface and stability enhancements. Future features may include RealAudio, still photos, and real-time video.
Currently, the major showcase for ichat is the company's own itropolis, (http://itropolis.net:4080) ichat's flagship chat site. The site is a collection of graphically represented chat rooms that play host to ichat conversations. ichat can currently be used as an IRC client, and a future release should give ichat servers the ability to support users using standard IRC software.
For larger events, ichat provides advanced chat moderation, evidenced when ichat played host to a backstage chat session live from the Eden Fest
rock festival. Several layers of filters for questions are possible, and the hierarchical structure of an entire event is fully customizable. The ichat
ROOMS server is priced based on the number of concurrent users, and the cost includes a year of technical support.
ichat, Version 1.0
List price: The ichat client is free.
Requires: Win 3.1 or 95, Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer