In the beginning, there was the chat room. As one of the first forms of social networking to catch on in the early days of the Internet, the chat room still stands as an incredibly useful, handy form of online communication. The predecessor to instant and text messaging, chat rooms were -- and still are to some degree -- a low-fi experience that didn't require any slick graphics or flash animation. All people had to do to join the online community was think up a snappy username, log in and start talking to people next door or oceans away.
In the 30 years or so since chat rooms have been around, social networking sites have evolved into sophisticated and downright complex systems. Long gone are the days when a simple username would suffice to sum up one's online identity; now, people spend hours perfecting profiles with pictures, links and clever quips meant to show off their best assets. But the concept of the chat room hasn't fallen by the wayside, either. The ability to communicate via text-based messages in real time, as opposed to sending e-mails or posting messages, is still a valuable online resource for social networking.
Chatango.com caters to that need for real-time communication on the Internet. Although many social networking sites include chat features, Chatango allows users to create a free profile and form public and private chat rooms that they can embed on their personal Web pages that might not otherwise facilitate conversation. For instance, if someone runs a Web site for a small business, he or she could set up a Chatango chat room on it to allow potential customers to ask questions and get answers instantly.
In addition to business applications, Chatango also doubles as an online networking community. Users can search for friends by location, age and gender and start up a conversation with merely a mouse click. And unlike the cumbersome bells and whistles of major social networking platforms, Chatango is straightforward to join and simple to navigate.
In order to start using Chatango, new users must establish a profile. After coming up with a username and password, people only have to include age, gender, ZIP code and an e-mail address. From there, users can fill out as much or as little about themselves as they wish in the About Me blurb.
The Main Profile box allows subscribers to share more about their interests, embed videos, music, pictures and links, akin to other social networking sites. Since Chatango searches profiles through keywords, users should employ descriptive, specific keywords when filling out their profiles to make it easier to find friends with similar interests. For instance, people who describe themselves as "laid back" might not receive as many compatible friend requests as someone lists out hobbies.
Once Chatango users set up a username and profile, they're given a direct URL to their profile page, which follows the format: http://username.chatango.com. The user can then customize the appearance of the profile page with various colors, fonts, skins and add-ons, such as mp3 players.
Chatting on Chatango involves little more than clicking on a user's profile and tapping out a message. If someone goes offline but doesn't want to miss any Chatango messages, the site features a MessageCatcher that users can download. The MessageCatcher, which is only operational on Windows platforms, lives as an icon in the Windows system tray. It sends an alert whenever a Chatango chat arrives in someone's profile. That way, when a person logs back into Chatango, he or she can respond to missed messages, kind of like voice-mail for a chat room.
As in other online communities, people may not always want to converse with certain fellow users, and Chatango realizes that. The Settings menu includes a block feature to prevent unwanted users from being able to send messages. In addition, the privacy function can restrict whether a user's profile can be found through Chatango search, whether a user can receive offline messages and if a profile picture accompanies the user.
The greatest benefit of Chatango doesn't necessarily take place on the Web site at all. The portable chat room application permits people to embed a public or private Chatango chat box on personal Web pages and lets them moderate the conversation to take their online conversations virtually anywhere.
Benefits of Chatango
The primary benefit of Chatango is its portability. The site offers Chatango group chat rooms and private Chatango MINI box applications that users can post on other social networking sites, including Facebook profiles and eBay stores.
To create a Chatango group chat room, users just need to click "Add group page to your web page" and fill out a group name, URL and description. Group owners can also customize the size, font and color scheme of the group chat room boxes. These group chats are public forums where non-Chatango users, called anons, can chat with each other directly, unless prohibited by the moderators. After filling out the group chat room details, Chatango allows users to automatically insert the app into a variety of online community sites, including My Space, Friendster, Facebook and many more. Someone with a personal blog or site can also manually embed a Chatango chat room into their site by copying and pasting the HTML code into the Web page.
When there's little available space on a Web page, MINI Chatango boxesmight work better than a group chat. Like the Chatango group chat rooms, users can customize the size, font and colors in MINI chat box application as well. The Settings menu also gives chat room owners the ability to block users and specific words, such as profane language, from entering into the conversation. If the number of chat room participants gets too large to handle alone, group owners can also appoint other moderators.
Finally, an embedded Chatango chat button can advertise real-time chat capabilities without cluttering up a Web page. Clicking the button opens a pop-up chat window, rather than the window living on the Web page. A colored dot on the button glows green when the Chatango user is online and available for chat; if someone isn't logged in to Chatango, someone can still send a message, but the button will be gray to indicate that the user is away from the computer.
Chatango isn't the most robust online social networking site, but it fulfills a niche need for real time, text-based chatting. Hunting down friends with compatible interests is probably easier to do in a larger online community with a more detailed search function, but uploading a Chatango group or MINI chat onto a personal profile or Web page can get people connected and communicating without the lag time of e-mail and posts.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- "Top questions about Chatango." Chatango.com. (July 14, 2009)http://chatango.com/page?FAQ