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Chat ([ tʃæt ]; from English to chat “chat, talk”) or online chat refers to electronic communication by means of written text in real time , usually via the Internet . The US Internet service provider Compuserve offered the first form of online chat from 1980 in the form of the "CB simulator". Even the Usenet and in the broader sense of the CB radio had chat features.


The most original form of Internet chat is pure text chat, in which only characters can be exchanged. Meanwhile - depending on the system - a sound and / or video track can be added or replace the text chat. One then speaks of " audio " or " video chat ".

Today, technically speaking, there are three main types of chat:

  • The Internet Relay Chat (IRC) was developed in the 1980s by Finnish students Jarkko Oikarinen. He needs his own chat server ; these servers are mostly networked with one another. In addition, client software is required that is either installed on the computers of the people chatting or is started via a browser , e.g. B. a Java web client. Special IRC commands are used to control the client.
  • The web chat where you can chat directly in the web browser, it is usually does not require any additional software. Web chats are mostly limited to the respective website. This form is also used in live support systems , some of which contain other services such as IP telephony or remote maintenance functions.
  • With instant messaging , the chat is usually not conducted in a public chat room , but only between those who have identified themselves as possible conversation partners using the corresponding software. However, public XMPP chat rooms, which are used like IRC's, are also widespread.
  • Chat by email with "Chat over IMAP" (COI). COI expands the SMTP and IMAP concepts to include chat functions. B. " Delta Chat " / "OX-COI".

IRC and instant messaging usually contain other functionalities such as the creation of conversation logs ("chat logs") or the transmission of files and hyperlinks . What all three variants have in common is that they usually do not chat under real names, but under a pseudonym ( nickname ). In IRC and web chats , the exchange is usually organized in chat rooms or channels that are dedicated to specific topics. Chats with more than two chatters take place in chat rooms. According to a survey by the Federal Statistical Office , 46 percent of 10 to 15-year-old internet users used chats, blogs or internet forums as a means of communication. For students and schoolchildren, this proportion is 89 percent.


Please note the chatiquette . These are special rules for the manners in a chat. In order to avoid misunderstandings due to the lack of visual communication between the participants, these rules should be followed.

Netiquette describes general rules for the manners on the Internet .

Chatter meetings

Since you can only talk "virtually" in a chat, so-called chatter meetings (CT) are organized by some chat communities or private individuals. This is where the chatters meet in real life to exchange ideas or discuss organizational matters. Meetings at which members of a chat channel (e.g. IRC channel) meet are called channel parties.

The first chatter meetings in Europe took place in 1987 and were called relay parties according to the forerunner of IRC , Bitnet Relay .

Dangers and problems

False identities

In chats, users can never be sure whether the other person is really what he or she claims to be. This also applies to chats in which the users have profiles. Apparently personal information and photos do not necessarily have to match the real person, as the registration data is usually not verified. Chatters who pretend to be something they are not are called fakes or catfish. It can happen that someone speaks to a man who pretends to be a woman, etc. This can also lead to romance scam ('love swindle'). Even if verification takes place, it does not need to be reliable. According to Wolak et al. Children and young people in particular should be made aware of this possible difference between “online personality” and reality, especially with regard to the danger posed by sex offenders (“online predator”).

Chat addiction

The fun of chatting can turn into a chat addiction . This is often seen with people who have just started chatting. This problem can become entrenched, especially in people with a disturbed social environment. The chat addiction can occur in connection with an online addiction . This is facilitated by the anonymity, so that you can impersonate other participants as a personality that you are not in real life. This can lead to a loss of reality , as one can also assume that the person created in the chat is outside the chat room.

Communication in chat

Communication in chat takes place almost simultaneously ( synchronously ) and not offset over a long period of time ( asynchronously ), e.g. B. in e-mail communication. The participating chatters type their contributions into an input field and send them off with an input. From the time it is sent to the addressee's computer, the contribution is almost immediately visible to all chat participants in the same chat room; Until the time it is sent, however, most chat systems can see the activity of typing for the partners. Furthermore, contributions can overlap. Communication in chat shares - despite its medially written implementation - more features with oral conversations than with texts, but its characteristic differences to oral conversations consist in more than the fact that chat contributions are typed in contrast to conversations. Because of the communicative framework conditions, despite the synchronous presence of those involved in communication in front of their computers, it is not possible to process expressions of behavior simultaneously while they are being generated; This is where chat communication differs from oral conversation (see e.g. Beißwenger 2007).

Language in chat

In the chat, the correct use of the language on the syntactic and orthographic level is not in the foreground. Anacoluthe (structural breaks ), aposiopeses (sentence breaks) as well as colloquial contractions, ellipses, interjections, dialectal and sociolectal expressions give the language in chat a slang character. Typos and grammatical errors are common, punctuation marks are almost irrelevant, and lowercase letters are often used consistently. "The economic principle is [...] clearly in the foreground as the maxim of expression production." (Geers 1999, 5). The missing para-linguistic means are indicated by emoticons (e.g. :-), ;-) or: -o) and acronyms (e.g. lol = l augh (ing) o ut l oud; dt. or abbreviations replaced.

Learn foreign languages ​​in chat

If you as a learner would like to use the medium of chat to improve your foreign language skills, you should choose rooms that have been specially set up for this, so-called learning chats or didactic chat rooms, due to the special communication and language characteristics of chats.

Software and protocols

Well-known chat software and protocols are:

Chat programs that support multiple protocols:

See also


  • Michael Beißwenger : Language coordination in chat communication (= linguistics - impulses & tendencies 26). de Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 2007, ISBN 978-3-11-020050-8 (also: Dortmund, Univ., Diss., 2007).
  • Rainer Geers: The language factor in infinite data (t) space. A linguistic view of dialogues in Internet relay chat. In: Bernd Naumann (Ed.): Dialogue analysis and the mass media (= contributions to dialogue research 20). Proceedings of the international conference, Erlangen, April 2-3, 1998. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1999, ISBN 3-484-75020-0 , pp. 83-100
  • Gerit Götzenbrucker, Roman Hummel: Between familiarity and fleetingness. Relationship dimensions in computer-mediated conversations using the example of chats, MUDs and newsgroups. In: Michael Beißwenger (ed.): Chat communication. Language, interaction, sociality & identity in synchronous computer-mediated communication. Perspectives on an interdisciplinary research field. Ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-89821-147-9 , pp. 201-224.
  • Martin Haase, Michael Huber, Alexander Krumeich, Georg Rehm: Internet communication and language change. In: Rüdiger Weingarten (Ed.): Language change through computers. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1997, ISBN 3-531-12940-6 , pp. 51-85.
  • Eva Platten: The importance of chats for foreign language learning. University of Giessen 2001, thesis available online (PDF; 560 kB).
  • Jan van Loh: Floating characters. Chats - psychoanalysis - literal stage (= kaleidograms 62). Kadmos, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86599-109-6 (also: Berlin, Humboldt-Univ., Diss.).

Web links

Wiktionary: Chat  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: chatten  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Private households in the information society (ICT). (PDF) In: Fachserie 15 Reihe 4. Federal Statistical Office, 2009, accessed on February 16, 2010 .
  2. Tim Ziemer: What does catfishing mean in German? Meaning simply explained. In: Chip . September 18, 2019, accessed May 5, 2020 .
  3. Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor , Kimberly J. Mitchell, Michele L. Ybarra: Online "Predators" and their victims: Myths, realities, and implications for prevention and treatment. , In: American Psychologist , 2008, Vol. 63, No. 2 (Feb-Mar); Crimes Against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire