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The Talk City home page. See more pictures of popular web sites.

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People have been using the Internet for real-time communication since very early in the medium's development. Indeed, our current obsession with text messaging is only the latest version of real-time chatting.

Early versions were simplistic and required knowledge of a program such as Telnet to log in. Instant messaging allowed people to chat with their friends and added innovations such as the ability to send image files or use emoticon smileys.

Of course, the desire to gather in a public place and discuss the day's events is hardly limited to the Internet era. For the ancient Greeks, the agora served this purpose and fostered the earliest ideals of democracy. From those lofty origins were born salons, coffee shops, town halls and every other place that people have met for reasons social or political.

Talk City is a Web site that allows users to enter chat rooms and discuss a number of different topics using a simple interface. Since its inception in 1996, Talk City has been at the forefront of social networking Web sites that allow real-time chat features. In fact, the site is home to some of the oldest online communities in existence. And while Talk City's influence and membership levels have declined in recent years, it still has a loyal following among some Web users.

This article will explain how Talk City works and describe the site's place in the history of social networking Web sites.