Chat, IM or Instant Messaging technologies enable users to dialogue with each other. Code supporting these capabilities is often embedded in a social network service or web browser or directly in the worn user interface. As of 2007 the voice user interface is increasingly integrated in the major proprietary chat tools such as AIM/ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, MSN, Blackberry and iPhone. The Creole effort is aimed at standardizing not only wiki markup but chat logs so the outputs of this dialogue can be easily integrated into wiki pages.
The Internet Relay Chat network is the most mature, standards-based and flexible - it relies on well-documented IRC protocols that don't change, and are supported by many clients including GAIM and jabber. See intranet chat for more on this. The remainder of this article assumes you are not using IRC and don't know chat technology very well - which is the main reason people are not using IRC!
 Aspect of social networks
A social network is ordinarily understood as including the potential to initiate chat with any person in that network at any time, even if that is only a contact network of weakly associated business contacts or political contacts. One of the most useful objective tests of whether someone is actually open to communication is to see if they respond to attempts to initiate chat.
Many or most forms of Internet fraud and Internet sex crimes begin with chat as the introduction, so it is increasingly difficult to overcome social barriers to beginning. One of the ways people reduce this inhibition is to ask for ASL or age/sex/location early in a conversation so it is relatively clear what type of interactions are or aren't possible, and what social protocols, e.g. between age groups should apply.
 Multi-chat client
However, as of 2007 most users are using either a proprietary chat tool or one of the multi-chat clients, of which the most useful and popular are:
- GAIM (a client only)
- Jabber (a chat network protocol supported by many clients)
- Trillian (proprietary software)
Before 2008 the majority of users will probably at least be aware of such clients. The growth of competing networks like Google Talk suggests that before 2010 multi-chat clients will be dominant and replace OS-specific and chat-network-specific clients.
 Chat networks
 Trillian SecureIM over ICQ
 GAIM OTR
The GAIM OTR system is free software, which Homeland Security can't buy out (unlike Trillian). It works over any of the chat networks, which allows users to shift between them at leisure. It has increasingly become standard for geekish usage.
 Older computers
Chat on older computers is somewhat more problematic. While any megabox can connect to the net, the networks require new client software. While Windows 98 is fully supported by GAIM and Jabber, and older versions of Trillian still work on it (poorly) - a W98 boot should be configured with one of these. Windows 95 is more problematic but some Jabber clients claim to support it. GAIM on Linux is a popular choice and most Jabber clients also work on it.
 Guild test
Project Procrustes applied certain tests that the Efficient Civics Guild adopted. One was to recommend a particular multi-chat client (originally Trillian) to every nominee or potential apprentice. Once installed, it would link the user to all others involved, but more subtly it was a test to see if one could download/install/use it without risking wasting the time of more experienced persons.