He recalls a “little frontier town” where you could initially recognize almost every screen name you came across.
When the main chat room filled to capacity, necessitating the creation of Lobby 2, the community celebrated. “I know for myself, personally, I found it fascinating,” says Schober.
“In the ‘80s, if you had a 2400 baud modem you were pretty hot stuff,” says Schober. People talk about their cellphones being slow now; a slow cellphone might be 256k or 512k, so if you think about something being 100 times slower than that, it’s ridiculous.
That’s what Parker was getting at when he talked about the “spontaneity to the Internet” during the Airtime launch.In the ’90s, I constantly interacted with people known to me only by their screen names; today, I only interact that way in comments sections and on Twitter, and only occasionally. I’m nostalgic for AOL chat rooms, but would I use them if the company brought them back? But that doesn’t mean some entrepreneur out there isn’t working on something that captures the same spirit, albeit without the same hegemony AOL enjoyed.Last month, Sean Parker of Napster fame launched Airtime.Amid the hoopla of the launch — attended, for some reason, by Jimmy Fallon and Snoop Dogg — Parker told an anecdote about meeting his business partner, Shawn Fanning, 15 years ago in a chat room, saying, “There’s something exciting about bringing spontaneity to the Internet.Windows 3.1 was released, making personal computers both more affordable and easier to use.
And, despite our memories of the slow-dialing modems of the ’90s, connecting to the World Wide Web was faster than ever at the time.“The BBS world, it tended to be a one-line experience — you were the sole user of the service, you could send email, you could leave messages, but it wasn’t interactive in real-time in the same way.So the experience of going into a chat room and getting a response a couple of seconds later from someone who was in the same chat room was just really cool.” Slowly, the service grew, expanding to support DOS and eventually Windows.Then, in 1996, America Online opened the floodgates by introducing a monthly flat rate instead of charging by the hour.For .95 a month, users could now linger in chat rooms for as long as they wanted.The late ’90s, according to Schober, was when chat rooms hit their peak.