Plug-In to Chat

What you should download to chat online.

It's a dizzying challenge to keep track of all the companies that want to help you chat over the Net. One of the top contenders, Mirabilis, based in Tel Aviv, Israel, introduced its software in November 1996. Since then, more than 9 million people have downloaded ICQ. Why is it so popular? It's easy to use, it's targeted to small groups - and it's free! You simply can't talk chat without talking ICQ.

If you want to talk business over the Net, the company to start with is ichat, based in Austin, Texas. Like Mirabilis, ichat offers free plug-ins (which more than 6 million people have downloaded). But the strength of its product line lies in its applications for business, which include Events (for moderated online forums), Assist (for Net-based customer service), and Rooms (for multimedia communication among as many as 50,000 simultaneous users). The company's high-profile customers include Sony Online Ventures, Citibank, and Merrill Lynch.

Rooms starts at $595 (for 25 users). Events starts at $1,000 (for 25 users). The ichat Paging System, which includes Rooms plus instant-messaging capabilities, starts at $1,495 (for a 100-user system).

Coordinates: Mirabilis Ltd., www.mirabilis.com; ichat Inc., www.ichat.com

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