lightweight chat
March 23, 2005 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Whats a good, public, lightweight, web-based chat service? Some friends of mine and I will be traveling around Asia, meeting up in different places, then diverging, then meeting up again etc.

None of us are carrying any devices. Instead we plan to use Internet cafes to synch up our plans.
What would be really nice would be to have a scheduled time we could all go to different Internet cafes and "chat" in real-time. It should be lightweight because you cant always depend on these places to have all the latest gizmos installed.
posted by vacapinta to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
There wasn't a single internet cafe in all of South East Asia that didn't have MSN or AOL on the machines, and of those that acted strange, it was easy to install a fresh copy, except for some state sponsored public terminals in Thailand and even then there were viable options around the corner.

Having met up with friends in Asia myself, I had better luck with email than instant-messaging because when you're paying by the minute (even if it's only $3 an hour) you still don't want to linger too long waiting for someone else somewhere else to connect at the same time.

Gmail was my friend. MSN was only really good for chatting up people at home.

Funny anecdote: in Vang Vieng Laos I was meeting up with a friend and we tried to coordinate where to see each other, wet set a location and time, and I went and didn't see him. After a few minutes I hoped over to the nearest internet cafe to see if he'd left a message, and the last person logged into hotmail (most sites have msn as default home page) was my friend! I ran out past the bottles of cobras in alcohol and looking around quickly found him walking down the street.
posted by furtive at 11:07 AM on March 23, 2005

this would be so easy to implement on a server as a public service. you'd have a front page that has a button to open a new chat - that just generates a random URL on that server and sends you there. on that page is text (initially empty) and two fields. in one field you can enter an email address and they get an invite including the url. in the other field you can type text. when you submit, it appears on the page. reload gets you other people's text. after some amount of time, the session expires and the server zaps the page.

if it doesn't already exist, and you can wait a couple of weeks, i'll write it for you.

on preview - hmm. maybe there's a reason it doesn't exist.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:13 AM on March 23, 2005

Your comment got me thinking, andrew...I suppose we could also use a wiki and we could just reload like crazy.

Hmm. This would have the advantage that we could load up the wiki at any time and reference previous conversations.
posted by vacapinta at 11:18 AM on March 23, 2005

you might overwrite each other if it's not a clever wiki, but yeah, otherwise that makes sense. or add comments to a blog. or post to a blog.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:23 AM on March 23, 2005

In my travels in Asia a few years back, I was surprised at how ubiquitous and popular ICQ was. I'd all but forgotten it! I think the Wiki idea is neat, but... wasn't there a quickie web app posted to MeFi a while back where a "chat room" could be spawned simply with a link, say, ""?
posted by pzarquon at 11:30 AM on March 23, 2005

Oh, if you really insist on using a solution besides email, you might enjoy Webnote, which allows for a sticky note sort of interface, works well with large groups of people editing them concurrently, and you can link directly to the sticky note board rather than going through the login page. Here's a Sample one.
posted by furtive at 11:39 AM on March 23, 2005

Here's an easy one.
I didn't write it (someone nice at macromedia did as a sample), but it's really easy (all components based, seriously the only server side code is load("componenet.asc")). check it.

Summarize: write yer own based on flash on a browser. EVERY computer has a browser.
posted by countzen at 12:00 PM on March 23, 2005

What about a site like MeetUp? You can schedule events, create polls, and there is a message board section.
posted by suchatreat at 12:03 PM on March 23, 2005

Would this help?

Web based MSN and betas of others.
posted by juiceCake at 12:09 PM on March 23, 2005

countzen said it for me...after seeing Flash Communication server in action on iSketch, I'd think there'd definitely be some other sites offering Flash-based, online chat. Here's a Flash component for 25 USD that you can add to an existing web site to provide this functionality.
posted by bachelor#3 at 12:12 PM on March 23, 2005

Although Internet cafes are ubiquitous and cheap in Asia, the trouble is that they can be really low-tech, which rules out even Java-based webchats or sites requiring extraneous plugins like Flash. It really does depend a lot on your location, it can vary even within neighborhoods.

If you're hosting it yourself, there's an ASP/Javascript solution (among others) that's only 11kb. (You could actually just meet up and use the demo page itself, seeing as it's pretty empty anyway.) Or you could use a Perl CGI app similar to JabberChat.

I've found that widely-available hosted webchats are both too frilly and too limiting (if you know what I mean), plus they tend to be commercially-oriented, so I wouldn't recommend the ones that I know of. :P

P.S. And oh hey, if you ever need a tourperson in this neck of the woods, feel free to look me up!
posted by Lush at 12:25 PM on March 23, 2005

You know, I'd strongly suggest against the plan of trying to all meet up online at the same time. You might be in places where it is hard to find a cafe or you might be waiting for an hour for that last person to connect... Go with a wiki and dump the idea of doing it all at the same time, it'll save you a lot of trouble.

Check out WebCollaborator, it is free, it is private, and it'll do what you need. You each get accounts, you each get access to the wiki (your wiki) and you leave notes for each other.
posted by pwb503 at 1:56 PM on March 23, 2005

Check out WebCollaborator, it is free, it is private, and it'll do what you need

that looks pretty sweet...
posted by jacobsee at 3:50 PM on March 23, 2005

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