TBT: AOL Chat Rooms – The Early Days

This week in our Throw Back Thursday post we’ll be reminding you of how far chat rooms have come along ever since the first AOL chat rooms. Alright, so some of you may still be too young to remember the days where you had to plug your computer into a phone jack and couldn’t use both the phone and internet simultaneously, but for those of you who do remember those days, you most likely remember AOL.


Today’s AOL is nothing like it was 15 years ago. Over the past few years, the CEO of AOL has been reinventing the entire company’s business plan and they have turned into investors rather than providing social media platforms. However, in the 1990’s, AOL was the leading chat room platform in America. In fact, America Online was named one of the most influential websites to have revolutionized the internet.

What was AOL like?

It was in the early 1990’s that AOL first became popular among computer owners, but let’s face it, there weren’t nearly as many computer owners back then. Nonetheless, AOL introduced the world of online chat along with actual graphic run video games rather than text based games. If you’re old enough you may remember those games like Spy Snatcher and Shadows of Mordor; you can thank AOL for getting rid of those.


The first days of AOL chat rooms were somewhat pathetic. The limit of people per room was set at 23 and when the 24th person would join it would create a new lobby. When you compare that to our chat rooms today with unlimited amount of members online simultaneously, you see how far we’ve come along. Back in those days, you could easily recognize every single screen name that logged on.


What Caused AOL’s Popularity?

It was in 1996 that AOL grew so big that it became the leader in the industry and was later able to reach over 30 million worldwide users. What caused this peak in users was when they introduced a monthly rate to access their chat rooms. Sure you can chat online for free nowadays, but back then $19.95 per month was considered cheap to have unlimited chat room access.

When this flat rate was introduced, new boards were formed in the chat rooms and topics of all genres were being shared. Whether it was sports, arts, music, television shows or even the news, AOL was the place to be for conversing with strangers online. In the late 1990’s AOL was reached over 17 million users and was a place to talk about anything.


People who had trouble socializing in real life would meet new people online, relationships were formed and teens discussed their favorite bands. It was the turn of the millennium and boy was it revolutionizing.

As time went on, AOL slowly got replaced with newer and better technologies. MSN, Yahoo, Skype and many others began introducing new methods of communication. That goes without stating all of the other types of online communication methods like MySpace and Facebook. AOL was a leader at one point and those who remember it will never forget how important it was once upon a time.

Stay tuned for next week’s TBT post!

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