Chat Using Dynamic Animated Images

This page demonstrates how text can be typeset and pushed to a web browser in real time. The chat box below is an interactive, dynamically generated, animated GIF image. Each time a line of text is to be displayed, the server renders and sends the next frame of the animation.

Note to those arriving from 2018: Works best in Firefox. At some point after 1999, browsers diverged in how they render incomplete animated GIFs. Firefox still seems to do the right thing, though.

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This technique makes it possible to provide a real-time chat service with no software for users to download, no firewall or proxy problems, no dynamic HTML, no Java or Javascript required, no Flash, and no automatically reloading frames.

This little hack was written in the night and wee hours of Saturday, 25 September 1999. The font is the product of some compulsive pixel editing.

Javascript is used here to avoid having to reload the page when you type in a line of text, and to detect when you close this window, but the Javascript isn't necessary in order to make text typed by others appear in real-time. Sorry I didn't get around to implementing word-wrapping.

Source code is available under the GPL.

Ka-Ping Yee, 28 Sep 1999