A web chat is a system that allows users to communicate in real time using easily accessible web interfaces. It is a type of Internet online chat distinguished by its simplicity and accessibility to users who do not wish to take the time to install and learn to use specialized chat software. This trait allows users instantaneous access and only a web browser is required to chat. Users will always get the latest version of a chat service because no software installation or updates are required.
Web chats (also known as messengers, IM, or instant messengers) have been around for decades, almost as long as email. The first major web chat client that was used worldwide was ICQ. ICQ is a slang version of “I seek you”. ICQ was originally released in November 1996, and was freely available to anyone with a computer and Internet connection. By 2001, ICQ had over 100 million users registered out of the 361 million Internet users there were worldwide. As the Internet grew, other web chat clients became to arise, became more popular and eventually took over ICQ. These were messenger clients such as MSN messenger and AOL messenger (AOL who acquired ICQ in 1998).
The following are standalone chat servers:
The following are web front ends (requires e.g. IRC chat server):
The following are web-based live chat applications, which enable website visitors to chat with the sales or support people of the website in real time. Webmasters only need to paste a piece of code onto the web pages to get them working.
The following are companies that provide live chat service by taking care of web chat services for organizations or businesses: