Digi-Net DigiChat 4.0 Enterprise Edition
Java based graphical online chat server and client.
By Jon Deragon,
Tuesday, October 7, 2003; 3:00pm EST
Online chat has grown wildly in popularity over recent times making it
one of the major past times for Internet users. The concept of online
chat can be traced all the way back to the early eighties and late
seventies when people were chatting over dial up BBS (Bulletin Board
Systems). However the most recent product offerings bare little
resemblance to what was on tap 20 some odd years ago. Today's chat
servers offer the capacity of concurrent user sessions in the
thousands, a rich highly customizable graphical environment and
numerous user and administration tools and functions. A strong example
of what contemporary online chat represents is the newly released
DigiChat 4 by Digi-Net Technologies of Florida, USA.
DigiChat 4 represents the latest release of a product that has enjoyed
immense popularity and respect throughout the Internet. Users of past
versions have been eagerly awaiting this version, and we believe they
will be well rewarded for their wait. DigiChat has come through our
tests with excellent results, proving good things come to those who
Based on a Java platform, the DigiChat server is multi-platform
compatible with just about everything including Windows NT/2000, MacOS,
Linux, Unix, Solaris and any other operating system supporting Java.
Hardware requirements are minimal, for example a Windows NT based
system requires a minimum specification of a Pentium 200MHz processor
and 64MB of memory. And with higher specifications comes more user
capacity and performance. The server we used for our testing was a
Windows 2000, Pentium III 933MHz with 256MB of memory. The Java based
client for the users is equally robust requiring only minimal systems
specs, an installed JRE and relatively recent Netscape or Microsoft
Installation of the DigiChat server software was a complete
no-brainer, requiring almost no input during the installation process
with exception to configuring the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) and where
the chat applet would reside on the web server. Once installed its a
simple matter of typing in the license keys, setting up a room and
you're up and running in about 5 minutes total install time!
We are impressed with the intuitive design of the DigiChat client.
Buttons, drop-down menus and option windows are well organized and
quick to navigate. The scrollable user and conversation windows and
associated flag, private message and user information icons are clear
and simple to use. Just about every aspect of the chat environment can
be changed either by the administrator or user. Administrators can use
the new skins feature to create a completely customized look and feel
to their chat room by simply replacing graphic files in the DigiChat
resources folder. Users on the other hand, can define their chat font
colour, size and speed; window size and user icon.
One of the many features that sets DigiChat apart from the pack is the
use of user icons. Users can look through a catalogue of images that
can be associated with their name in the user list and in conversation
as a way to help identify who you are. Approximately 40 images are
included, all of which are changeable with your own or can be expanded
upon. Similarly cool is the 'emoticon' feature which translates
specified text strings into icons. For example a text :) smiley would
be displayed as a graphical representation, a highly popular feature
for chat rooms to have. The DigiCast feature lets administrators
display within the chat room text automated messages at set time
intervals. This is a handy way to communicate information to users
such as tips for new users, scheduled server maintenance, etc. Unheard
of in chat room software to our knowledge is DigiChat's new feature of
peer to peer file transferring. Allowing you to transfer files between
other chat room users via a signed version of the chat applet. Users
can then swap pictures, files and music while in a conversation.
For moderators, improved automated flood controls kick out unruly
users automatically depending on the criteria you specify. The ability
to kick out a user or 'permanently' ban them is similar as previous
version of the software and allow banning based on user computer's
address information and IP ranges. DigiChat 4 can store chat
transcripts to a file on the server if configured to do so. The
ChatWatch feature allows for filtering of content by replacing
specified words with 'alternatives', excellent for filtering out
language. For a fully moderated environment, DigiChat 4 ENT version
allows for a complete auditorium style discussion allowing control of
the entire conversation - perfect for hosting special guest events.
Guests, moderator accounts and administrator account rights are fully
configurable to allow control over what a particular moderators
privileges are. However, there is no internal user database or
management functionality, therefore you must write code (examples
being PHP, CGI or ASP) to interface with an external database system
you would need to develop. In our tests we used ASP code interfacing
with an Access database which seemed to function well enough, although
somewhat lacking in security against avid hackers. For users behind
proxies or firewalls, HTTP tunneling can be enabled through the
installation of additional third-party software and configuration
changes to DigiChat. This helps for compatibility with the maximum
amount of users possible.
The DigiChat client features space for advertising, although it is not
configurable to tie in with third party or in-house ad servers, it
allows you to display rotated hyperlinked banner advertising. What
DigiChat is good at integrating with is the entire range of Digi-Net
products. Named the 'Enclave Community Suite', you can have the
DigiPosts and Hubz products work seamlessly with DigiChat to have a
full fledged community of discussion forms, chat rooms and instant
messaging on your web site.
The new Bots feature allows you to write or implement written bots for
automated and intelligent interaction with users. Programs can be
written to respond or query users with dynamic content pulled from
specified sources. Example uses of such a feature would be a user
requesting the weather for their local area and DigiChat answering
back with data pulled from a chosen source of weather data. It can
also be a great automated help system, trivia style game or other
idea. Your imagination is really the limit on this one. A 'Commander'
feature, available in the ADV version, allows a much higher level of
interaction with server utilizing command-line parameters as the
gateway to the servers functionality. Get reports on chat server
statistics, automate routine administration and maintenance functions.
Most interestingly, it can allow interfacing with email systems, for
example, to alert individual users of incoming email in their mail
box. Again, your creativity can run wild with this sort of open and
flexible interfacing with the chat server.
Overall the program performed flawlessly in installation, most of user
testing and day to day administration. We did notice some users
experienced 'lag' (slow server response times) on occasion, which
seemed to be on the most part due to their own connection speed or
availability which DigiChat may be sensitive to. There was also a
somewhat severe bug with the private messaging functionality that was
in the process of being addressed at time of publication. The DigiChat
server NT service occupied a frugal 5mb of memory resources, and
required amount of disk space is a non-issue. It is dependable in that
we felt confident to leave it to fend for its self for potentially
months at a time without problems arising. In the event something does
go wrong, Digi-Net technical support proved themselves to be
knowledgeable, friendly and with excellent hours of availability.
Their refreshing approach was in stark contrast to the neglect you
experience with many other vendors nowadays. Technical support is
available in a number of channels including phone, email, live chat
and discussion forum.
DigiChat 4 is available in a number of versions and concurrent user
sizes to meet your needs. DigiChat PRO (Professional) version is
available in 100, 500 and 1000 single site user licenses and provides
a generous base set of features. DigiChat ENT (Enterprise) allows 500,
1000 and 2000 user licenses spread across up to 10 different sites
with the addition of auditorium style moderation. DigiChat ADV
(Advanced) is the King Kong model allowing up to an unlimited number
of users over 100 web sites, auditorium style moderation, 'Commander'
feature and is ideally suited to companies interested in reselling
their chat room space. An OEM option on the Advanced server allows
branding of the chat room applet. Pricing for the PRO, ENT and ADV
start at $599US, $1999US, $4995US, respectively plus a minimum one
year service plan that includes upgrades and technical support.
DigiChat 4 is competitively priced, feature-packed, a snap to install,
easy to manage and best of all, users love it! What more could you
About The Author
Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm
specializing in web site design, development and usability for
businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has
enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist
businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any
questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services,
this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.