One of the reasons chat rooms are so popular today is because of somthing called msn chat, this chat room was massive in its time it started out with a really basic comic chat format, which was quite funny as you owned a little face and you talked to other little faces lol.
This was finally done away with and replaced with the more popular msn chat look, this was incredibly successful, with over 20,000 users online at one time, which is massive.
On October 14th 2003 msn took the decision to close their chatrooms due to fears that children were using the chat rooms, it was a very brave decision as im sure it was making microsoft lots of money, childrens charlitys branded this as a revalation which i find a bit confusing as msn chatrooms have been replaced by other chat rooms that are now run half as well and half as safely so i fail to see how it solved the problem it just moved it somwhere else !
You could however still chat using the room via the msn groups page, if you created an msn group you could still open your own chat room and invite your friends to join, in 2006 the chat rooms were also removed from msn groups as msn said it was no longer profitable so msn is now condemed to the past lol, there are some providers out there still using the msn chat software, but it does now look dated and will never replace msn chat of the 90s.
Msn legacy still lives on though, as many of the ideas i found on msn chat were used in the making of world of chat.