Chat is not just for meeting new and wonderful strangers out in cyber-who-knows-where.
Internet conferencing is developing quite a foothold in business affairs as well.
By broad definition, chat is the method by which two people on the Internet can exchange messages to each other instantaneously.
IRC, or Internet Relay Chat, was the original form of chatting.
Now it is possible to chat on a web page and, more popular now, instant message.
All forms of chat require a client program.
So what is the difference between IRC and instant messaging?
Actually, instant messaging is a form of IRC.
Generally the instant messaging programs are easier to use.
With instant messaging, you can also add voice, and now, even video.
You've probably seen these displayed on commercials over the past few years, getting us all excited about the future.
Well, the future is here.
All you need is a microphone and a web camera.
This equipment is so inexpensive that Internet conferencing with voice and video is well within the means of anyone with a computer.
The software needed to text message, talk, and see each other online is available for free, or for a price, depending on your needs.
The rivalry between AOL Instant Messenger and Microsoft Messenger, fierce as it is, has led both companies to develop instant messaging software that allows text chat, voice, and video.
We at Internet Montana prefer Yahoo Messenger, since there are no banner ads.
A popular alternative for Internet voice and video conferencing is Microsoft Netmeeting.
Here's an excellent site to help you get started at meeting all your Web neighbors: Chat 101
And also, check out our collection of Tools and Downloads for your own chat clients
Internet for Beginners > Online Chat > Chat Etiquette > Chat-Speak (Codes)