In the early days of the internet, chat rooms were the hot place to meet new people. Users could find rooms dedicated to various subjects and niche interests.
These spaces helped people connect across borders and were many users' first online experience.
The internet has significantly evolved since those early days. Chat rooms aren't standard, and Google is the top source for finding resources on the web.
Still, there are web apps similar to the old chat rooms of yore if you know where to look. Here is our list of the top apps and how to use them.
Do Chat Rooms Still Exist?
Although the ancient chat rooms we used in the late 1990s no longer exist as they once did, new ones frequently emerge. Unfortunately, it's hard to sort through the noise to find legit chat rooms that aren't just dating apps in disguise or places filled with inappropriate content.
There are a handful of websites almost exactly like the chat rooms of old. These sites allow users to chat online with random people. However, finding active ones is a challenge, and they aren't always well moderated either.
Wire Club offers hundreds of chat rooms with a variety of different subjects. The look and feel of these rooms are reminiscent of early internet rooms. To access most of the rooms, you will need to join the service with a valid email address.
Wire Club heavily promotes the dating portion of its app, so you will likely find a lot of lonely folks looking for relationships or companionship on the service. The platform rates its rooms with the motion picture content rating system, and users should follow those guidelines (but that doesn't always happen).
Chat Blink reflects what most chat rooms have become in 2022. There are very few active rooms, and the most active is adult chat.
The most popular feature of chat blink is the "talk to strangers" feature, where users can choose one individual from a list to have a private conversation with. While testing this app, the only message I received in this private chat was one filled with suggestive emojis.
Related: How to flirt over text
Chat roulette isn't exactly a chat room. It's a platform for video chatting with random strangers. When you join, you get paired with someone from anywhere in the world for the opportunity to talk.
As the famous South Park episode showcased, it became a haven for inappropriate behavior. There is a lot of unsolicited nudity on the platform. The original idea was fun, but it's not worth the risk anymore.
Other similar websites, such as Omegle, have popped up with the same basic premise of random video chats with strangers. These platforms are difficult to moderate and ripe with abuse.
Related: How to flirt with guys
Paltalk is very similar to legacy chat rooms. It has thousands of users across the country (though it seems to be more popular outside of the United States).
Paltalk, available as a mobile app and on desktop, features a wide variety of rooms in different niches. The catch with Paltalk is that it isn't all free. Many of the most active rooms are exclusive to premium members, who pay a $9.99 monthly fee to access the platform.
The app is unique in its attempts to gamify chat rooms. Users earn points by logging in every day, joining chats, turning their video on, and otherwise engaging with the platform. Users receive gifts like sticker packs when they collect enough points.
Users interested in free chat rooms will find limited options on Paltalk. Free rooms exist on the network, but it's challenging to search through them, and most aren't very active.
Where Can I Chat with Strangers for Free?
As you may have noticed, most of these existing chat rooms are shady at best. However, newer alternatives can now provide the same kind of connections the classic chat rooms of yesteryear once did.
Here are some of the best platforms with the same features that made chat rooms great (with added functionality for the modern era.)
Discord is the best platform to make new friends that share common interests. Although Discord started as a place for gamers, it's evolved to include all sorts of interest groups. Users can join 'servers' (rooms) about finance, gaming, arts, language, anime, and much more.
Discord is designed for real-time chat, just as the legacy chat rooms were, but it comes with new moderation tools.
Server owners can deploy a moderation bot such as MEE6 to automatically delete messages with inappropriate language (so a real person doesn't have to actively moderate). Automatic moderation ensures a safe, productive conversation for everyone.
Users can set different nicknames for each server, protecting their privacy across chat groups. Discord also leverages video so server admins can create rooms for members to watch videos, play games, or chat.
Discord servers are highly customizable. Many bots help owners schedule events, track users, incorporate games, and promote their businesses. Customization options keep the server engaging, safe, and on topic.
Discord offers 100% free chat for video and text chat options. Users can upgrade to Nitro for bonuses (bigger uploads, more emojis, etc.), but the essential chat functions are always free.
Telegram is a messaging app that seamlessly syncs across devices and allows users to share photos and videos easily. Users can add contacts from their phone and social media accounts or create and join private groups to chat with strangers.
There are groups about nearly anything. Each group can hold up to 200,000 members, making it easy to chat with others who share your interest.
The Telegram group feature functions more like a social media chatroom than a traditional chat room, with group owners able to restrict who can and can't post or comment. Some groups only post information and don't allow any commenting, while others enable active engagement.
Finding groups on Telegram isn't very user-friendly. It can be hard to identify groups if you don't have an invite link.
Social Media killed chat rooms. With Facebook and Twitter, people could suddenly interact worldwide in a more public way. These platforms allowed users to reconnect with long-lost friends and make new friends in various fields.
No popular social media site completely replaces the feel of chat rooms. Users must provide an email or phone number, which prevents complete anonymity, a key trait of many early chat rooms.
Additionally, the conversation on social media isn't real-time, which helps people stay connected even when they aren't engaged but limits the "real conversation" feel.
Most social media platforms offer private messaging capabilities. These messages allow users to interact with each other on a more personal level and, because they are private, are often ripe with abuse. Many platforms restrict the ability to send direct messages to avoid this type of abuse.
Web forums are great places to interact with strangers over time. While chat room conversations are real-time, web forums move more gradually.
The biggest web forum on the internet is Reddit. There is an area on this website for nearly every interest. With so many people active on the site every day, it can seem like conversations are happening instantaneously.
There are thousands of smaller forums across the internet for various niches. Deviant art is a forum where artists share their drawings and comment on artworks. Moms who want to connect and share stories about motherhood can visit Mothering. Whatever your interest, there is a web forum for it.
Many chat rooms became dating rooms and sex chats. As these chat rooms aren't well moderated, they often turn abusive. You also have to be on your guard not to get catfished by a stranger.
Dating chats are the most common type of traditional chat room available, but if you are looking for something a little safer, try an online dating app like OK Cupid or Bumble instead.
Chat Apps for Business
Businesses never used traditional public chat rooms, but many realized they needed chat functionality with the shift to remote work. They created chat groups within networks specifically designed for business functions.
The most commonly used chat rooms for business are Slack, Chatter, and Zendesk. However, many companies stick with Microsoft teams and Zoom for all their communication needs.
Modern messaging apps might provide an ideal solution if you use chat rooms and platforms like AOL's instant messenger to keep in touch with friends.
These apps don't generally allow you to talk to strangers, but they have a lot of great functionality to talk to people you've added to your network.
Skype and WhatsApp are the most popular messaging apps, but Facebook Messenger and Snapchat are also great options.
Chat Rooms are Dead, but Their Spirit Lives On!
Chat rooms are no longer at the leading edge of the internet. However, their spirit lives on in the wide variety of messaging apps, forums, websites, and platforms that have taken their place.
Chat rooms were the start of something beautiful - humans reaching out across continents to connect with strangers. That essence lives on and hopefully will continue to improve as the internet evolves.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks by Melanie Allen.
Nicole Graham is a relationship expert at Womenio.com. She is helping women grow into their best selves so they can be confident and bring more love, passion, and purpose to their lives. Nicole enjoys studying the psychology of love and is passionate about writing on them. She offers helpful tips and advice to help overcome any relationship issue, whether you’re single or already in a relationship.