Rapidly overtaking newsgroup exchanges, chat is now a very popular form of Internet communication. The benefit is that users can exchange information in public in real time and the downside is that there is no opportunity to leave a message one day and see responses to it later. Its faster than e-mail! In addition private chat networks are available for householders and companies to carry on private real time conversations through typing information on a keyboard.
According to Internet Research Group, chat sites regularly feature in the top 25 most visited sites in the home and with 128 million English speakers using the Internet (54% of all users world-wide21) this is a very global activity.
Where newsgroups have an influence that is very fast and can influence events in a matter of hours, chat can have an immediate effect and subjects are discussed at the speed of light.
The relationship between people in chat rooms is quite close and personal with comments made in public to other people 'present' at the time. In addition and concurrently, private conversations are held. A reputation can be shredded in an instant and some of the information changes the fortunes of companies quite quickly.
In an investors chat room, stock market tips fly fast. Some people establish considerable reputations and are followed by a host of Stock chat groupies, while business groups seek commercial opportunities all at the same time. For the financial affairs manager this is a real challenge and many monitor sites (and contribute). But the range of chat sites is enormous and monitoring them all, all the time is not possible without the appropriate technology. The significance for reputation management for these technologies is the ability for the consumer and the opinion former to multi-task. The ephemeral chat is by no means untainted. Field Fisher Waterhouse’ Internet law expert Michael Chissick, cites examples of clients asking him to take action against a particular chat area. He claims that this is rarely worth attempting because the perpetrators are infrequently wealthy enough to make the process worth undertaking!
The most common recourse is a letter to the offending site’s service provider or the content provider involved to ask them to remove the offending material. This, he says, they are happy to do because they do not want the problem to escalate. But he warns that the determined ‘offenders’ will almost always win.
“The problem,” he says, “ is that you can stop them once but then they will move to other chat areas and, if need be, post information to Web sites in the US or Holland.” This comment is several months old. Since then the number of chat sites has grown from a few to thousands and continues its explosive growth.