Relay Chat is the latest evolution of the ancient internet relay chat (or IRC) protocol. This new iteration promises anonymous, live chat on whatever website you happen to be on.
If this seems odd and foreign to you at first, you're not alone. It was only after I installed the extension for myself that I began to understand the utility. Every website you visit will add you into a relay chat with everyone else who is currently on that website, from around the world. Interesting stuff.
The “anonymity” aspect can be speculated because you are identified by a user name of your choice. During sign up you are also required to enter an email address and a password. So it's not truly anonymous in the same way as places like 4Chan and 8Chan, but it does offer a certain degree of anonymity.
According to Relay: Chat's own material, “People are already using Relay Chat to:
- find deals on Amazon and Ebay;
- get live help on Stack Overflow;
- watch and chat about shows together on Netflix;
- solicit career advice on LinkedIn;
- chat with other developers on localhost;
- instantly connect in online classrooms;
- chat about their favorite football team on nfl.com or goal.com;
- leave their mark on Google;
- chat about every topic imaginable on over 1.5 billion websites.
After spending some time with this extension, I can certainly see where they're coming from. It's an entirely new concept of socializing that does take a minute, or 30, to wrap your head around, but once you do, it feels pretty natural.
You don't have to add people to talk to them and worry if they'll post dirty memes on your wall where your family can see. You don't have to worry about whether they will be offended by your dark sense of humor or controversial political views. It doesn't matter who they are. Talk about something interesting on this website and never see them again.
It's a very modern form of communication. Extremely impersonal, but that sort of seems to work nicely, oddly enough.