How do chat rooms work? header image

How do chat rooms work?

There are two questions that we need to answer here: the technical question on how software is used to create and use a virtual chat room, but also the setting up of the operation of running a chat room and the human jobs required to maintain and run the chat room.  Chat rooms are a form of communication in some ways, like forums, but they work in a very different way, as public chat rooms are asynchronous, which means you are chatting in real-time. 

I will also go into some of the work as to how the software interacts with the server or hosting, if you want to know more about the history of chat rooms please read our article.

Find the definition of a chat room here.

The technical stuff needed to run a chat room

You will need a domain name and some hosting, as well as chat software like Cody chat which is what we use, you do not need a degree in networking or computer science, a lot of the time your host will help you install and configure your hosting for you.

Most chat rooms require some kind of software to run. It has changed over the years as technology has moved forward. Previously, you needed some kind of client and server, to create a connection where users log in, and join the server to, join the chat rooms.  Clients are still used today. Yahoo! Messenger, for instance, or most instant messaging networks.

This still happens today, but it’s more of a Java programming language thing now. As technology has moved forward, less code is needed to achieve the same as using software, and people can usually run this on their web browser rather than having to install something these days.

You could create a very simple chat room yourself. If you google it, there are many tutorials showing you how to do this. However, it would be a very simple chat, and not very appealing to people.

So, once you have got the right software for the job, you need some kind of web hosting or a server to install your software onto. This will enable you to publish your chat room to the world online. This is what all chat rooms must do.

web server needed to create a chat room

Your hosting will be live on the internet 24/7 and keep your site live for you. Sometimes it’s called a web server, which is what it is. The benefits of this are not obvious, but if you run the chat room from your home computer connected to the internet, you will have to leave your computer on 24/7.

Hosting does this for you and is important because if you have lots of users online at one time, it can take a powerful server to run, depending on what kind of facilities you are running in your chat room itself. 

For example, if you are adding voice chat or webcam chat rooms to your website, this is more server reliant and needs a faster server to run, as streaming voice or webcam images take up a lot of resources.  Streaming video via webcams and audio is one of the most intensive ways of sharing information. 

Most chat sites run on VPS servers, which are flexible hosting. You can upgrade online with a few mouse clicks. They are better than shared hosting, which is slow, and not as expensive as running a dedicated server, which is fast but very expensive to run.

So you need software and some kind of hosting to make chatrooms work.

Generally, apps work in exactly the same way. An app is just a form used to display information in a certain way, and convenient to have it all at one click of the icon on your smartphone, for example.

But the setup is the same server and software is always needed. To set up a chat room, you want people to be able to login in and use it.

But how does my text appear in the chatroom itself?

Most basic chat rooms are text-based chats so it is easier to explain with this kind of chat in mind.

Well, the software acts as an interface, which gives the user the ability to exchange photos. For example, this can make or break a chat site, as if you provide a bad user experience, people are not going to come back to your site.

Web hosting, hosting is like a heartbeat. It pulses hundreds of times per second, so when you type into the software and click, enter the commands are sent via the software to the hosting, the server processes the query so quickly it appears almost in real-time.

So, when you type messages into the chat box to your friends, your messages will be carried on one of those pulses to appear on your screen in an instant. There is a small lag in conversations, but you do not notice this.

This is a simplified version of what is happening of how the messaging works, but this is the basic premise of how most software works on the net.

Often you will see a chat room slow down and then a flood of information flying up the screen. This is usually because the server is busy processing other data, so the pulse has slowed, then once the server catches up, the pulse processes a mass of data to catch up to real-time, thus the pause in communication was only because of server lag.

Obviously, this is important, as if the server has too many visitors or is processing data too slowly, the chat will slowly stop working until the software will stop running.

So, part of a working chat room is getting the right hosting setup, to avoid downtime or people complaining your website is too slow. if you need more help on how to use chat sites you can find it here.

How does a chat site rely on its staff?

Well, you are going to need a computer for starters, you cannot fully organise and configure the chat via your phone. The screen is too small.

As far as the staffing side, actually setting up a chat room itself is not easy. You have to add the rooms themselves, which takes a lot of thought, and you have to decide what kind of topics and interests you want participants to talk to each other about.

You need to find moderators and helpers who can help keep the chat room abuse free, as without this your chat room can become chaotic or full of abuse. Also, you need a person who can keep a conversation going or promote a discussion.

These people are like virtual employees and rarely get paid they just do it to help out other members, with account problems, username and password issues or abuse problems.

Most chat rooms will also have some kind of admin section that can be used to ban people, track users, add and remove individuals, and configure all the settings for each chat room.

Which can be extensive

How to make a chatroom?

There are a few ways to do this. If you have experience in software development, you can create your own,  but creating your own service is long and hard, but would be a fun project.

The best way is to find some software that matches your needs and find some hosting that is fast and flexible. You can try Cody chat as a software solution, it’s cheap and you can customise it, with lots of modifications.  You could go down the Irc route (internet relay chat) and set up your own chat server there but that is hard to do.

You could also create your own chat room on a website like World of Chat and just run your own chat room on someone else website, we would certainly let people host their own chat room, on our site for free depending on the topic

Examples of chat applications around us

If you are thinking about what examples of chat applications around us we have lots, Discord server chat, for example, Google hangouts chat, Facebook messenger rooms, Google chat there are many around us, we probably forget these are actually chatrooms as we use them for other things, like as a voice chat app for example, there are many others out there, these are some of my experiences with setting up chat websites and apps so hope it helps.

Other Frequently asked questions

How do I get started building my own website and chat room?

Write down your ideas and get your costings worked out, how much is hosting per month, how much is software going to cost, and slowly work towards a goal, website design and things like this are also going to need to be setup, as you need to have content to help customers and also to help you be found online so don’t overlook this, maybe get opinions of your friends or people online to bounce ideas off.

Decide what kind of chat you want to create?

You need to think about what kind of chat app or site you want to create, do you want it to be an anonymous chat room where people don’t register, do you want it to be a random chat where its basically just private chat only, with no public main chat, a video chat site ? or a random Chatroulette style chat or a traditional chat site, with a public main chat with the addition of a private chat option for users.

Do chat apps and messaging apps work the same way?

Yes they all require some kind of hosting be a server of some kind a domain and some software to make the chat app work.
A large company like Facebook and FB messenger, are a tech company that is just a software company first developing their software on their own servers.


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