Yes there’s always IRC but if you want something a little more counter-cultural, why not try MUD? Multi-User Dungeons are the mainstay of the old-school UNIX BBS. Similar to IRC, the text-based chat & role-play is a lot more entertaining. To log into a MUD you will need to set up a shell account with an online BBS.
There are a number of shell accounts & BBSs available. The telnet BBS guide is a good place to start.
I ssh’ed into the Super Dimension Fortress, a Seattle-based BBS with an evocative name and set-up my account like this:
This took me through a setup in which I was asked to supply a username and password. I could then login with username@server.
Then using the unix commode programme available from the shell I quickly learnt how to join a room. Sound familier? MUDs are essentially chatrooms, but with a slightly different ethos and character. Some are exceedingly elaborate. I actuallyprefer the good old cyberspace hackers meeting up in text-mode. B&W or Colour, toggle on of off, you choose. To enter the real MUD game using the mud command, I chose a character and became a samurai leprechaun.
My first realisation on returning, was that today’s MUD, apart from the game, could make a nice addition to Pidgin, as a plugin. A better nCurses interface would also be cool in terms of development.
Whereas IRC is usually organised around a topic or channel, MUDs are very connected to a sense of place and presence on the Net. You can feel like you live and work in Seattle for instance, by joining SDF which also has a Texas presence.
MUD, considered by many to be some kind of Pre-Mosaic relic,, may have slipt under the radar, but thanks to Ubuntu, the shell is making a come-back. Chatting via a MUD is more anonymous than Facebook, and less of a chore than IRC, which is geared towards rapid communication. MUD is also a lot slower, and laid-back. Give it a try and let us know what you like or dislike.
UPDATE: There are two clients in the repos which one should consider. PuTTY is an sh client with some excellent options such as proxy. There is also Gnome-MUD, a GTK MUD client.