LOS ANGELES – Chat rooms are back.
Lost since the heyday of AOL’s hangout, where strangers could gather to discuss their favorite TV show or sports team, pop.in, built on the ashes of Smiletime, seeks to bring them back to life, with a touch.
Smiletime was a website and app seeking to capitalize on live streaming through Facebook, allowing multiple people to drop in with their friends for “shows”. That wasn’t enough, so Alex Kruglov, the company’s founder, just shifted gears this week.
The pop.in app, available via Apple IOS initially, seeks to bring back the AOL-style chat room, where anyone can join a discussion. The difference is that the chats are on video – so people use their iPhone camera to join.
There is no limit to the number of people who can join and conversations are fleeting. Like the Snapchat communication app, they disappear once they’re done.
Kruglov was the guest of a #TalkTech podcast episode and explained the new concept.
The chat room was a special moment, Kruglov says, but it was pushed back in favor of other news sources, like Google and Quora. “I think we really miss the idea of people spending time together on the internet without knowing each other,” he says.
People on Facebook and Twitter can have heated and often nasty conversations, but Kruglov thinks video chat will make a difference.
“Because you can see people with you, we hope the conversation will be respectful and positive,” he says.
Other apps allow many people to chat at the same time, including Houseparty and Skype. These apps offer friend chat. On pop.in, everyone can participate.
To join, download the app and you’ll see a list of upcoming chats available to join. Topics on Saturday included the Lego Ninjago Movie, late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel, novelist Stephen King and new iPhone 8 phones.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham.