Are Chat Rooms Dead?

The Internet is a place that is constantly evolving and changing with the times. It doesn’t feel like it was all that long ago that I was dialing up with my 33.6k modem and chatting with my friends over ICQ, but that was eons ago in the context of the online world. In contemplating how far the Internet has changed in the last 10 or 15 years, I realized one very important aspect of the Internet that seems to have virtually disappeared: chat rooms.

When I was a teenager in high school, chat rooms were all the rage, providing a venue where we could connect with people who had similar interests. I could join just about any conversation, talking about the latest video game from Nintendo or even venturing into the world of politics if that’s what I wanted to do. These days, I’m just as addicted to the Internet as I’ve ever been, but I haven’t come within arm’s reach of a chat room for years.

I find this shift in preferences to be a little strange, because we still spend a fair bit of time surfing around on forums and discussion boards. Why don’t we stick around in the chat rooms anymore? The only place where I ever hear about chat rooms these days is when middle-aged news reporters investigate Internet predators and pedophiles. Are those the only people who still “hang out” in chat rooms? That would be a very sad and sobering revelation.

Even though it can be a scary place at times, Facebook has almost become a replacement for the chat room. Friends can connect, share their thoughts, join groups, form ongoing discussions, and so on. I may have (inaccurately) predicted the death of Facebook, since I thought more people would be learning how to use Twitter, but Facebook is still gaining in popularity for whatever reason.

Blogging and social networking are being touted as Web 2.0 concepts, because they encourage the input of the Average Joe, but didn’t we achieve a similar kind of interaction more than ten years ago with chat rooms? Perhaps we are no longer content with anonymous conversation; we want to know, become friends, and follow the people with whom we engage in conversation?

What do you think? Are chat rooms dead? If so, what was the nail in the coffin?