A press release from 1997 promotes a calendar of events that included an online chat with each of the Spice Girls and a downloadable audio greeting from Oprah Winfrey (in honor of Mother’s Day).
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.
“Auditorium” chatrooms could hold hundreds or thousands of users and had a moderator.
A 1993 Associated Press story even describes how then-President Bill Clinton was considering holding a town hall on AOL.
His screen name was “Clinton Pz.”Clinton’s team of “young, high-tech specialists” were “pondering new ways of communicating directly with Americans,” reported the AP.
With AOL, users could get information from the White House and “even send the president electronic mail, known as e-mail, if they want.”Angelique Weger, a 36-year-old front-end developer, recalls using chatrooms in middle school.
She would spend time roleplaying as a medieval sorceress on the Red Dragon Inn sci-fi/fantasy chatroom and meeting teens from across the country in Teen Chat.“I really liked the sense of just being represented and just being understood by my words,” Weger tells “There wasn’t any sort of physical representation of yourself.There was little trolling.“It wasn’t a troublesome space,” Weger says.“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.Along with this product came the away message, buddy icons, a personal profile, and eventually voice chat, file transfer, and chat bots.“It was a different time, because in the ‘90s, no one gave their real personal information on the internet,” says the now 35-year-old web developer.To this day, Garden Chat appears to be one of the most active chatrooms on AOL.