Don't miss an insight. Subscribe to Techopedia for free.


Real-Time Chat

What Does Real-Time Chat Mean?

Real-time chat is virtually any online communication that provides a real-time or live transmission of text messages from sender to receiver. A variety of software programs are available to enable real-time chat between individuals using Internet services.


Real-time chat can be any direct text-based or video-based (using webcams) one-to-one chat or one-to-many group chats by means of tools like instant messengers (IMs), talkers, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and multi-user dungeons (MUDs).

Techopedia Explains Real-Time Chat

The first real-time chat system was known as Talkomatic, developed by David R. Woolley and Doug Brown in 1973. It provided quite a few channels, each of which was able to support as many as five people, with messages from all users showing up on the screens character-by-character as they were typed. CompuServe CB Simulator, launched in 1980, was the first dedicated real-time chat service made available to the public.

Chat messages are often brief so as to let other participants respond swiftly, thereby creating a feeling much like a spoken conversation. This mode of communication differentiates real-time chats from other forms of text-based online communications, including emails and Internet forums. Real-time chat uses Web-based apps, which permit communication that is usually addressed directly but is anonymous among users in a multi-user environment.

Common real-time chat programs and protocols include:

  • Apple’s Messages
  • Google Talk
  • AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)
  • Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
  • RetroShare (encrypted)
  • Skype
  • WhatsApp
  • Windows Live Messenger

Chat programs that support multiple protocols include:

  • Adium
  • Google+ Hangouts
  • Miranda IM
  • IMVU
  • IBM Sametime
  • Trillian

Websites having browser-based, real-time chat services include:

  • Cryptocat
  • eBuddy
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Gmail
  • Talkomatic
  • Tinychat
  • Wireclub
  • Zumbl

Related Terms