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I just liked engaging people with my words and relationships.”Weger made many friends from these chatrooms, some of whom she has met and still keeps in touch with today.AOL was her first introduction to the internet, and on chatrooms, she spoke to a computer programmer for the first time. In exchange for being in the chatroom for certain hours and moderating, AOL would grant her free hours.But much of the time, the conversations are much more colorful — in that they’re splashed with expletives.“Lately my favorite room has gotten a bunch of pervert-nasty people,” Bird says.She calls them “disruptors.” When I ask her what the disruptors do, she says, “If you were reading Garden Chat right now, you would see. That’s not fun.”Bird misses the days when people would talk about growing annuals and perennials.User-created sexual fantasy rooms are also popular.On Garden Chat, sometimes people still trade tips for gardening and cooking, messaging back and forth in different fonts, font weights, and colors.
“I have to imagine moderating spaces online in 2017. It was more often you had to remind people what the values and norms of the room were.”Schober recalls that at AOL’s peak, AOL would sometimes gain over 70,000 users a day, causing chatroom communities to rapidly evolve.Users could also create private and public chatrooms and host scheduled events.Initially, mostly tech-minded people joined AOL chatrooms, since at the time, it wasn’t as common to own a home computer.While her children don’t use AOL anymore, she’s kept it up.Her favorite room is “Garden Chat,” where she trades tips on how to grow vegetables and flowers.
At the pinnacle of AOL, the company had 35 million paying subscribers. When it was still called Quantum Computer Services, the company debuted chatrooms.“That was a huge focus of the service,” Joe Schober, who was a beta tester at Quantum Computing Services in the late 1980s and officially worked for AOL from 1992 to 2014, tells Regular chat rooms could hold up to 23 people.