Options for Connecting Online
From ancient Internet Relay Chat to real-time messaging on modern dating sites, there are tons of ways to make contact on the Internet.
Chatting doesnt just have to mean text messaging anymore, either; you can send more than just emoticons with new video chatting software that connects you to friends, family and strangers all over the world in an instant. Here are some of our favorites.
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The simplest way to chat online is to use a text messenger program. The original, AOL Instant Messenger, is still kicking around, but many email clients, including Gmail, offer similar chat programs. You simply log into your account, check your buddy list for a friends name, click, and chat away. On these programs, you can set away or do not disturb messages for when youre not at your computer, or go invisible so you can message out without being seen online.
Certain programs, like Adium, will aggregate multiple chat accounts into one buddy list window for you. This is helpful for not taking up browser space, and for grouping multiple conversations into one window of their own.
If you have a computer or tablet (or even a smartphone!) with a built in camera, you can enter the world of video chatting. Apple products come built in with an app called FaceTime that allows you to make video calls to others with the program--using this on your phone can feel very high tech, and its an easy way to make contact when far from home. FaceTime is free to use over wifi.
Another popular program is Skype. Skype allows you to video chat with the option of adding text. If you have a remote job interview, you bet it will take place over Skype! Skype is free to download and use for all Skype-to-Skype calls. They also offer low priced international long distance service and premium features like group video chats, for additional fees.
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Google Hangouts is a relatively new roll out from the web giant, giving users the option for video group chats at the next level. You can organize these group video sessions to have a business meeting remotely, plan a party with friends, or meet new friends by broadcasting your video session publicly. Plus, these meetings integrate back into your Google calendar so youll never miss - or forget - a hangout.
If you are just up for meeting strangers, programs like Chat Rouletteare a fun way to give video chat a try. After you go to their website, you will be randomly connected to another online user; when you are done with them, simply click next to be connected to a new user. Be wary, though: some take advantage, and this site can very often be not safe for work!
There are tons of cool and free options to stay in touch with your friends and family online, and even ways to meet new friends. Just remember your online netiquette and have fun!