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So you want to chat? You've heard about chat rooms from your friends who say it's the coolest things since toilet paper, and you know how we can't live without toilet paper.

The web-based chat sites listed here are the quickest and easiest way to get started. Simply click on the links below and follow the directions. The sites listed first are the easiest-to-use, most populated, and are most likely to work with a wide variety of browsers.

If you have problems chatting, make sure you have a recent version of Opera, Netscape, or Microsoft Internet Explorer. You may find that you'll have problems with the older browsers, especially if you're going to use the Java chat rooms, which we recommend.

But be warned, it's easy to get hooked on the Internet chat rooms. And if that happens, you'll want to move to IRC chat, where you can chat in many rooms at once and access the "real" world of Internet chat.

  • Geocities
    Aside from offering free home pages and email, geocities also offers a very impressive chat area. It's very easy to use and would be my recommendation for the beginning chatter. There is a wide selection of topics, and if you don't trust java, html chat is available, but use the java version if possible. We found the geocities chat rooms incredibly easy to logon to and use. We did not even have to register...just select a handle and start chatting. There are lots of icons to include in your chat, and plenty of people to chat with. Select "User Options" to send private messages.

  • Excite
    Excite offers an excellent chat area with guest log-ins and an easy-to-use interface. There are also "communities" that cover many topics and allow more of a bulletin-board interface.

  • Chatbox
    The chatbox is a very straight forward setup that allows you to quickly logon and start chatting. There are only eight chat rooms but there were plenty of people in each and they cover the main topics.

  • Yahoo Chat
    Yahoo makes it pretty easy to get up and running in their chat rooms, but they do insist you register first. Yahoo's chat rooms are feature rich and they offer many special chat events, but there is also the feeling here that there could be fewer options and windows. IMO, web-based chat should be clean, simple, and intuitive. If you want bells and whistles you would be using IRC. But all-in-all, Yahoo offers a good choice for chat.

  • Lycos Chat
    Other than a very simple registration process, Lycos makes it easy to get into their chat rooms and message boards quickly. The interface is pretty standard, with lots of images, private chat rooms, and so forth, but the Java chat had a few bugs, so you might want to go with the Java light or HTML.

  • Freetown
    Freetown offers excellent chat rooms with interesting topics and a super-easy login...what more could you want? Some features are not available until you join, which costs $21.95 per year, but other than that, this is an excellent site to start chatting on.

  • The Globe
    The Globe insists that you register before entering their chat rooms, and the setup is not totally intuitive, but the chat rooms are well populated and both html and java are available. We recommend the java.

  • CenturyChat
    We strongly suggest reading the FAQ before you enter the chat rooms here. Most of the chat rooms except for the teen chat were empty when We visited, and you have to clear the entry

  • Infoseek/WBS
    We found these chat rooms to be too busy and almost impossible to keep up with. They do offer a good selection of topics, but there seems to be no limit to the number of people in a chat room so the messages went by so fast I couldn't keep up. You can log on easily as a guest, but you must register to use all the features.
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