AOL offers a variety of chat rooms for members who use its desktop web browsing software, have the standalone instant messaging application AIM, or play games on the AOL Games website. Users can join public chat rooms focused on their interests or start private chats with members they invite. The only things you'll need are a free screenname and the appropriate software for the type of chat room you want to join.
Requirements for Participating in Chats
Before you can participate in any of AOL's chat rooms, there are a few necessary tasks you need to complete, including downloading the appropriate AOL software for your computer and signing up for a screenname. Both the software and account is free, and you won't need to subscribe to AOL's dial-up or broadband Internet service to access the chat rooms either.
Downloading the Necessary Software
The software you'll need to download depends on the types of chat rooms you want to join. While you can only access the People Connection chat rooms through AOL Desktop for Windows, you can create and participate in AIM buddy chats with both AOL Desktop for Windows or Mac OS X and the standalone AOL IM software. Since both buddy chats and People Connection chats use a special protocol within AIM or AOL Desktop, there's no specific web address you can use to visit the rooms outside the programs. Chat rooms on the AOL Games website, on the other hand, are accessible through any web browser.
Creating a Screen Name
Signing in to AOL Desktop, AIM, or AOL Games requires an AOL screenname, which will be used as your online ID and also provides a way for other members to contact you through email and instant messaging. AOL's registration page lets you choose a screenname, fill out your personal information, and set up a password. After the brief signup process, you'll see a confirmation that your screenname is ready to use. You can then type your screenname and password on the sign-in screen on AOL Desktop or AIM to get ready to chat.
People Connection Chat
AOL People Connection, available only in AOL Desktop for Windows, is the main home to dozens of chat rooms grouped into two categories: chat rooms created by AOL and chat rooms created by members. Chats in both groups focus on a specific topic, such as health, hobbies, arts and entertainment, games, food, celebrities, geographical location, pets, politics, friendship, travel, and sports. Chat rooms created by members can be either private or public, and private chats require that you know the name of the chat room to participate.
The process for viewing the People Connection room list and joining a public chat is as follows:
- Sign in to AOL Desktop with your screenname and password.
- Click the "Community" menu and select "Chat Room Listings" to view the list of chats. The main tab shows AOL's own chats, so click the "Created by AOL Members" tab if you want to view chats members have created.
- Double-click a chat room category to view associated chat rooms to the right.
- Highlight the chat you want to join and click "Go Chat" to enter the selected room.
Joining a private member chat is different. After you access the Created by AOL Members chat list, click "Enter or Start Private Chat" on the right. You can then type the private chat room's name to join an existing room or set up your own private room.
AIM Buddy Chat
AIM buddy chats are private chats between members using AOL's instant messaging service and require an invitation to participate. Designed for general conversation, buddy chats are useful for chatting with members who don't use AOL Desktop but have access to the AIM software. Starting a chat is very simple for both AOL Desktop and AIM users and is as follows:
- If you use AOL Desktop, simply click the "Buddy Chat" button at the bottom of the buddy list. AIM users can right-click a single contact's name and select "Group Chat."
- Type the screennames of each friend you want to invite in the resulting window.
- Click "Send" to create the chat and send invitations.
AOL Games Chat
Sponsored by AOL, Games.com lets members chat with each other during single player and multiplayer games. When you join a game, a chat box displays to the right and connects you with other people playing the same game. Some of the games featured on the website include arcade games, word games, puzzle games, casino games, and sports games. When you first join a game, the site will ask you to sign up for a screenname or sign in with an existing one. Unlike the other types of AOL chat rooms, you can chat on this site using just your web browser.
Chat Rules and Guidelines
AOL has comprehensive guidelines that users need to follow to ensure a safe chat experience for all members and requires member to agree to these policies when creating a screenname. These rules focus on appropriate language, the distribution of content, and various types of illegal activities.
AOL's various language guidelines ban the use of language that could offend, threaten, take advantage of, or harass other members. Prohibited language includes the following:
- Vulgar or explicit language
- Graphic descriptions of violence
- Harassment towards other members based on age, race, disability, gender, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation
- Hate speech
- Language that discusses illegal activity or tries to promote a product or service
There are also various rules regarding the sharing of links, images, sounds, and data through chat. This includes the following:
- Using the chat as a means to facilitate the distribution of software, sounds, images, text, and other data
- Posting pictures that contain nudity or graphic violence
- Infringing any copyright or trademark through text, graphics, or other types of data
- Posting links that go to websites that are against the AOL Terms of Service
It is prohibited on AOL chat to exploit minors for personal information, including names, telephone numbers, home addresses, or any other information one could use to track down the person. Users are also not allowed to abuse the network by sending spam or viruses.
Connecting With Other AOL Members
Whether you want to find others who share your interests, chat privately with your friends, or meet other people who play your favorite game, AOL's variety of chat rooms provide numerous ways to connect to members and possibly even meet new friends. The experience in chat rooms can greatly vary, especially in the People Connection rooms, so feel free to try different chats to find the one that makes you most comfortable. Additionally, remembering to follow the chat guidelines will help make the chat experience more safe and enjoyable for all members.