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Message boards and forums aren't really chat rooms, but many people refer to them this way. Message boards and forums is called asynchronous communication. In other words, rather than typing in real time and getting responses in real time, you post a message that stays put. You can even compose these ahead of time. Other people read your posts, and some will reply. Message boards and forums can get just as out of hand as a chat room, but they can also get very serious. People tend to put a bit more thought into what they type since their post will be around for a while.
New technology and inexpensive bandwidth has given online radio a foothold on the net. Online radio chat are a great match, because you can listen to the radio while you're chatting, and folks running small radio stations can broadcast to folks in specific chat services or even specific chat rooms. Some online radio station software is even free. You can set up a radio station right on your PC and broadcast to a handful of people at once. Chat rooms are a great place to find new listeners. Many people set up an online radio station, go into a chat service and offer to announce chatters' paint contests or game tournaments. The painters, in turn, tune into that radio station. It's a great, synergistic relationship.
There's alot to learn about chat room software. Chat Lines is one of those terms that is being used more and more, but no one has really decided what it means. Some companies advertise chat lines, and it turns out they're dating services that use phone lines to let you chat with potential partners. For the purposes of discussing online chat software, chat lines refer to HTML chat. This is a kind of chat that has a very low barrier to entry, in other words, if you can get online, you'll be able to use it, even if you have a very old computer, a very old operating system, and a very old browser. Chat lines are pure html. You type into a browser, hit enter and your words appear. You have to hit the refresh button in your browser to see the most recent activity. It's a little bit like message boards or forums this way, however the text is not persistent. New text flows onto your screen, and old text flows off.
Java chat is a generic term that describes a chat program written in the java programming language. This means each time you chat, your computer downloads a java applet that allows you to chat. You don't have to download, install, and launch a program to use the chat service. This means you can use the chat service on most computers, including some computers made available in public places such as libraries and schools. There are also disadvantages. A java chat program will never be as robust as a standalone chat program. The fact that the java applet has to be downloaded each time means the programmers of the chat client will do everything possible to keep it small. Therefore, usually java chat is text-only chat.
Learn about chat room software: Virtual Places chat, or Vpchat, is standalone (i.e. you must download and install it) avatar-based chat software. It's very graphically oriented. People sit in chat rooms that have an html background. The background might be a landscape scene or an actual image of some kind of room, or it may be someone's home page. You can use any URL as a chat room background. The software includes 7 games, tours (group browsing), instant messaging, gestures, emoticons, file transfer, voice chat, and an auditorium.