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Reddit’s new feature is bringing back AOL-style chat rooms

Reddit is launching a new throwback chat tool to connect complete strangers in small groups.

In a move that feels like a modern take on AOL chat rooms from the 1990s, Reddit launched the Start Chatting button Wednesday. The feature matches Redditors with other available, online users for small group chats.

Since January, Reddit’s existing chat tool has spiked by 80 percent. The new Start Chatting button differs from existing chat rooms in a few key ways.

Rather than serve as a chat room for all members of a community, Start Chatting is designed for more “intimate” discussions with smaller groups.

“This is the most connective feature that Reddit has added in light of COVID-19, and we’ll continue to introduce products that bring together and inform users in a beneficial way, so that we can all get through this together,” Alex Le, vice president of product and community at Reddit, said in a statement.

When users click the Start Chatting button, Reddit matches them up with other members of the same community that are online and interested in chatting.

The chats are also easier to access — users just click on the “Start Chatting” option at the top of the community’s page to generate a new small group chat. (Users need to be logged in and members of the community to see the button, which appears on both desktop and mobile applications.) Reddit says the tool makes it faster to connect.

The Start Chatting tool is randomly generated, Reddit says, based on other community members that are online and also interested in chatting. The resulting small group chat room is designed to be a small group discussion connected to the theme of the larger community.

Reddit’s rules still apply to the small group chat rooms, and the platform says if you block another user, you won’t be matched with them again in another chat.

The platform isn’t done with new chat features, however. Reddit says it’s working on a new feature focused on hyperlocal communities.

The Reddit Start Chatting button is rolling out today, April 29, to select communities, with the feature coming to additional communities in the next few weeks. 

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