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What is phpMyChat?

If you are looking for an easy to install multi-room chat application, phpMyChat might be worth considering. It is an open source application, available as a free download or as a one-click install via the hosting panel in many hosting plans.

Since its introduction, phpMyChat was downloaded more than 400,000 dtimes via SourceForge and the application is still going strong, although popularity is waning in recent years.

Building a community via chat

Chat applications in general have lost ground to social networking sites and instant messaging, but at the same time they have carved out a new niche – namely in business.

In addition to adding a social component to your site, such as integration with popular sites like Facebook or Twitter, it is also possible to install and moderate your own chat community. This is usually done to provide customers with easy access to information, let them connect with support staff or salespersons, or even share their own feedback and reviews (including video). There are a number of popular chat applications designed with these services in mind and phpMyChat is just one way of adding chat to your site quickly and easily.

Perhaps more importantly, you can do this without paying a single penny, as phpMyChat is free. The application is published under the GNU General Public License version 2.0 (GPLv2).

What makes phpMyChat tick?

In many ways phpMyChat is similar to Internet relay chat (IRC) in function, as it supports IRC-like commands.

As the name suggests, phpMyChat is written in the PHP HyperText Preprocessor (PHP) language and relies on one of three database management applications: MySQL (Structured Query Language), PostgreSQL, or ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) for data storage and organization. Developers are also working on an Oracle version.

    The main features offered by phpMyChat are:
  • Fully UTF-8 compatible
  • Statistics mod
  • ProgramE (Alice AI) bot
  • Gravatars mod and Avatars uploading allowed
  • Archiving (logging) and Lurking mods
  • Smilies, buzzes and image posting
  • Off-line messaging mod
  • Remember me
  • Calendar mod
  • Birthday mod
  • Video posting (Youtube and 195 other sites)
  • Live streaming Radio/TV plugin (WM Player)
  • MathJax plugin support
  • It is currently available in 37 languages, supports video posting, archiving and multiple options for administration. You can also add support for Gravatars, off-line messaging and calendar management using add-on modules.

    System requirements and installation

    As an open source application, phpMyChat is available as a free download, and is also available as a one-click install via the hosting control panel (cPanel) included with many providers' hosting packages. Consequently, it shouldn't add anything to your monthly hosting fees.

    It is also worth noting that phpMyChat relies on relatively old technologies – e.g. it is a PHP 3 application, so you should have no trouble running it on currently available servers. However, this also means that it cannot take advantage of PHP 5 features and that the code has undergone a lot of revisions over the years, without a major overhaul.

    Most hosts support the database requirements too – MySQL, PostgreSQL and ODBC are widely available, so you should have no trouble installing phpMyChat on a wide range of servers.

    In case you are for some reason unable to use the automated installer, it is also possible to install phpMyChat manually, but the process differs from host to host. It usually just involves downloading the .zip installation archive, using FTP to upload it and creating a corresponding database (usually MySQL).

    You also need to make sure that the contents of the install directory are uploaded to a top-level directory on your server, that you properly configure the database and that you correctly set the necessary file permissions.

    Always be sure to check with your provider before installing any additional software on your Web server.

    phpMyChat alternatives

    Of course, phpMyChat is not the only free PHP chat platform on the market.

    There are a number of alternatives and phpFreeChat is probably the most prominent of all of them. It has somewhat different requirements, as you need PHP 4.2.0 or later, but phpFreeChat does not require a database, as it uses the file system to store its information.

    PHPOpenChat is another, albeit less popular alternative, along with BlaB!, Cometchat or Cryptocat, a PHP-based chat that uses AES-256 encryption using the crypto.js library to render all communications in private groups secure.

    There are a number of additional alternatives, including dozens of chat platforms that are not written in PHP, but built in Ruby on Rails, JavaScript or ASP.NET.

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