eBay's chat rooms are the focal point of the eBay "community" experience: they're the way you can interact with other members in a public forum. Although eBay calls these forums "chat rooms," the interface is actually closer to a message board -- they lack the fast-paced flavor of online chat rooms. By any name, the feature provides a fun way to get to know other eBay community members.
The front door to eBay's's chat rooms is at http://pages.ebay.com/community/chat/. You'll notice many category-specific chats, including pottery and antiques, as well as general community forums such as "The eBay Cafe" and "Discuss eBay's Newest Features."
The chat rooms are humming 24 hours a day: click on one to reveal the trove of messages within. You'll notice a control panel near the top of the page -- more on that in a moment -- followed by messages, starting with the most recent. Reading down the page can be like trying to follow a conversation while travelling backwards in time.
Some chat room participants enjoy injecting graphics into their messages. They're cuter than a Hello Kitty convention. If you have a slow Internet connection or lack patience with cute animated graphics, you may elect to turn off automatic loading of graphics in your Web browser.
To reveal any new messages, reload the page in your Web browser. You could just tap the "Reload" button, but for faster service (and to avoid reloading hundreds of messages you're already seen) choose a time period from the "Show me messages from the last..." menu, then press the Reload button in the control panel.
Also with the control panel, you can post a message of your own, using basic text or getting fancy with HTML tags.
After you've visited the message boards for a few days, you'll begin to see familiar faces again and again. You'll also notice that discussions aren't strictly limited to the message board topic at hand -- meandering dialogs on life, the universe, and everything are common and welcome. The only thing that's truly verboten is using the chat rooms for buying, selling, or trading -- that's what eBay's auctions are for, after all.
If you post a question (How do I open my new laptop? Why is my Furby so sullen?) chances are a helpful chatter will try to assist you. Just don't forget to check back in the same chat room for a reply -- and don't expect an instant answer, it may take hours. The problem, then, can be finding your question and any replies buried in the mess of new messages. After you've loaded the page, use your browser's Find command to search for your eBay user name.
All told, eBay's chat rooms really aren't very well implemented: discussions aren't threaded, messages are only kept for a day, and it is difficult to find information. Despite these problems, the chat rooms are fun. Each one is home to a thriving community of folks who share a similar interest.