Talk Talk Talk
October 12, 2012 7:40 AM   Subscribe

My friends and I need a free or cheap place to talk online. Any ideas?

My friends and I are currently using a Facebook group to talk online, but it has several limitations so we're looking for something else -- a forum, probably. There are only 5-10 of us.

Must-haves are:
Easily accessible/readable from phones and mobile devices
Secret -- viewable to logged-in members only
Free or cheap

And we'd prefer a nice clean interface. Any ideas?
posted by kate blank to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is anyone tech-savvy enough to set up an IRC server?
posted by griphus at 7:41 AM on October 12, 2012

Google hangouts or Skype, but I'm not sure the ability of multiple persons on Skype.
posted by bleachandink at 7:42 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding google hangout
posted by Oktober at 7:44 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you talking about text chat or video chat or both?
posted by DoubleLune at 7:44 AM on October 12, 2012

Response by poster: Is anyone tech-savvy enough to set up an IRC server?

No, I don't think so.
posted by kate blank at 7:45 AM on October 12, 2012

Response by poster: Text chat only -- we're definitely not interested in video chat. Sorry, I should have made that clearer in my question.
posted by kate blank at 7:46 AM on October 12, 2012

Skype can have multiple people in a conversation.
posted by jillithd at 7:47 AM on October 12, 2012

Me and my best friends use a livejournal community for this.

Everyone would have to have a livejournal account for this (free), and someone needs to set the community up, but other then that it's pretty simple. You make a post and people can respond to that post in comments.

You can even set the default for posts to be members only.
posted by royalsong at 7:50 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

you can can create a forum, they host it, and it's private.
it is in dutch, so it'll a little tricky getting past the registration
but you manage everything after that

its mobile site friendly
posted by udon at 7:52 AM on October 12, 2012

Do you want this to be more or less in real-time? Or would something like a phpBB forum work, with posts? You'd need some hosting, but that could be found for cheap. Friends & I have used one for about 7 years. One guy is the admin, and it only requires a little tech-y tweaking. It's quite private and customizable to our interests/needs.
posted by knile at 7:53 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used Chatzy earlier this year for collaborative project planning and I think it fits your qualifications. I didn't use it from the mobile site but there is one.
The limits on free aren't bad, mostly have to do with logging - if you want to keep a log, someone will have to pay a bit for it. It can act as live chat OR more like forum/list posting, intermingled, which really worked for our purposes.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:53 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just to be a little more clear, Skype lets you add a bunch of people to a chat, then you can hang out in that "channel" indefinitely. I have 4-5 channels since I work remotely and I use it every day just for this sort of thing. It also has logging across devices, so you can go on the road or change computers or whatever and have your conversations right there.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:00 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

phpBB is super easy to set up. I have been on a private forum for years and had to set up a new site from scratch this year with close to zero tech experience and it was a piece of cake. The only cost is paying for the host. Ours was $99 or so for the year, which isn't much split amongst a bunch of people.
posted by something something at 8:01 AM on October 12, 2012

Google Groups might work for this as well... pretty sure you can set it to private/invite only.
posted by Grither at 8:05 AM on October 12, 2012

Best answer: You could use Glassboard. It's free, the groups you create are private, and it has dedicated clients for both iPhone and Android devices.
posted by RichardP at 8:13 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's totally possible to do this with Google+, especially if y'all aren't using it for anything else. (The fact that you have a profile is public, but you can make all your activity only available to your friend circle. Other people might add you to their circles, but since it's an asymmetrical model, unless you add them back to a circle and then share your stuff with that circle, they can't see anything you post.)

If you use it for posting publicly or to a wider circle too, you can still use G+ for this, but you'll have to check who can see a post before replying to it, to see if it's to your small circle or to a larger one, which can be annoying.

I also know people who use Twitter for this, but I can't imagine why.
posted by purpleclover at 8:33 AM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Nthing Skype.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:36 AM on October 12, 2012

Plain old Gmail can do this too.
posted by flabdablet at 10:27 AM on October 12, 2012

Response by poster: I checked out and wow, it seems perfect for us.

Thanks to everyone else for the suggestions as well.
posted by kate blank at 10:37 AM on October 12, 2012

You don't need to set up your own IRC server-- any existing IRC network will do; they differ in features somewhat, but I stick with the spare and relatively lawless EFnet, the Wild West of IRC.

Name your own channel and op your friends. Learning some basic commands will let you require a keyword for admission. You can add Fish (aka blowfish encryption) to your IRC clients (not sure about mobile devices) and then you're *really* talking in secret.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:25 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

My go to would be a Google hangout, but I've used groupme for this as well. It supports web and mobile interfaces plus can work via SMS. Think "group texting" plus features.
posted by boba at 11:05 PM on October 12, 2012

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