A/S/L? Banter wants to reinvent the chatroom on your phone

banter bringing back chatroom app

Messaging apps are all the craze and the latest batch have been focused on restoring a bit of privacy to your communications. Andrew Busey, the creator of iChat, remembers a time when chats were anonymous without the need of disappearing messages and digital encryption. Banter is his solution, a mobile revisiting of the days of the chatroom.

The app, built for iOS and Android, officially went live late last week and immediately opened up a time warp to our days of AOL Instant Messenger and IRC. Just like back in the glory days of instant messaging, Banter lets you create accounts without requiring any personal information to register. You can join and follow public chat rooms dedicated to specific topics of interest – which are only logged for 24 hours – or start private chats with friends, which are archived for 6 months. There’s even an option to chat with users nearby, easily the biggest jump in technology from the age old method of asking “A/S/L?”

All of this is great in theory, but we found there’s the slight problem when it comes to Banter: No one is chatting just yet. The most popular rooms on the service currently consist of 50 or so people, and that is with the vaguest of room names like “TV” or “Music.” The odds of you finding participants with similar tastes to you are low as evidenced by our experience in Music, where the two competing topics of interest were the latest Justin Bieber record and a call for John Tesh fans.

Once you start finding more specific topics, it gets harder to carry on conversation. We found subsection of the News category titled Ukraine, a timely and possibly good resource for learning about the current conflict. Or it would be if there wasn’t just one other person in the room when we joined, and exactly zero comments made. Meanwhile, the Flirting room was active and full of text from every user trying to hit on the one person claiming to be a girl. Some things never change.

Still, the app is only a few days old. It will get more users. Since day one, activity has already increased a lot. And even if some chat rooms are slow, Banter has a special weapon: the Stream.

The Stream is the home page on Banter, and one of the features that separates Banter from old school chat. Think of it like a Twitter or Facebook feed. Once you join a room, you also follow it. Every comment on the topic is added to one big feed. Rather than continuously jumping back and forth between rooms, we were able to watch messages come in from all of our interests. If one caught our eye, we could jump into that room and join the conversation.

Chatrooms have always been one of those creations that are sometimes great, but sometimes better in theory than practice. The collective knowledge of a group of people should offer wondrous insight and interesting conversation, but chatrooms are often clogged by trolls and others happy to sling arrows from their veil of anonymity. But we can’t blame Banter for the jerks among us. It’s the first truly modern chatroom we’ve used, and the bigger it gets, the more fun and informative it will be. If you like chat rooms (or have never been in one), give Banter a try.

(Banter is available for free on Android and iPhone)

Cars

Lime’s first carsharing service motors into Seattle this week

Lime may be better known for its app-based bike and scooter rental services, but in Seattle, Washington this week it's launching its very first carsharing service, similar to Car2go and Zipcar.
Music

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Cars

Waymo will launch its commercial autonomous ridesharing service in December

Waymo will launch a commercial ridesharing service using self-driving cars in December, according to a new report. As previously discussed by Waymo, the service will operate in specific areas around Phoenix, Arizona.
Computing

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.
Mobile

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks of the best portable chargers.
Mobile

Instagram tool accidentally exposes user passwords. Were you affected?

Instagram's Download Your Data tool accidentally exposed the passwords of a small number of users. Here is the explanation on what happened, and how to find out which Instagram accounts were compromised.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?
Mobile

New iPad Pro’s durability in question after it fails YouTuber’s bend test

The new iPad Pro models failed a bend test that was carried out by popular YouTuber JerryRigEverything. The result raises questions about the durability of the tablets, especially since customers are also reporting bending issues.
Mobile

How to use recovery mode to fix your Android phone or tablet

If you’re having a problem you can’t seem to resolve with your Android device, or maybe you want to update it or wipe the cache, recovery mode could be what you’re looking for. Here's how to use it.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Mobile

How to choose the best MicroSD cards for your smartphone or tablet

If you need some extra storage space and your device supports it, then a MicroSD card is an obvious place to start. Here, we look at what to consider and suggest some of the best MicroSD cards for your smartphone.
Smart Home

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…
Mobile

Common Kindle Fire problems, and how to fix them

Is your Amazon tablet giving you grief? Is it refusing to behave the way you expect? Take a deep breath -- everything will be fine. Here are some widely reported Kindle Fire problems and a few possible solutions to go with them.