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I talked with Joe Schober, the longest-running employee at AOL and its current chief architect.His relationship with the company started in 1988, before it was America Online.Apparently people don’t feel constrained by interacting with the people they know — they feel comforted by it.But what, exactly, happen to the chat rooms Parker so fondly remembers?All of your interactions online are constrained by the people you already know.” (MORE: Chatroulette 2.0?Napster Founders Launch Airtime Video Chat) So far, Airtime hasn’t exactly been a hit.
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.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.
“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.