As one of the try-hards who implemented an early attempt at a chat system, I offer my 2 bitcents worth.
Mine is Sandbox chat, available at the marketplace and currently implemented at the "Earth" domain although it also failed to gain any real acceptance due to some drawbacks and limitations. It works but its not great, it was designed to solve one problem.
Before we search for a solution we need to define the problem. Lots of talk here is about what people would like, what they think might be cool, what they think a user will do or wont do, what we think we can petition Hifi to include.
The reason I made this was to cure one single game killing problem that became apparent when global chat was removed.
New users floating aimlessly about with no clue, thats it, thats the problem we need to address imo.
I hated that they removed global chat and I have been vocal about that all over this forum, but I am also a realist and I am able to understand Hifi's decision to do this. More importantly I have accepted that this is a decision they have made, which means its a waste of time and energy debating whether on not hifi should provide a global chat system. They have declared they they will not, let us all take a deep breath in, and slowly out and repeat after me....
High Fidelity does and will not have a default global text chat system.
I can live with the fact that voice is primary mode of communication, but as several people have mentioned already, not everyone has a voice, or a mic, or headset, or speaks the language, or ability to speak due to location (think public library). This is a limitation and it will result in reduced uptake unless we address it before we go prime time.
Lets get outside of the box, everyone is saying "we need text chat" but only because thats all we know, call it ruined if you must but I call it conditioned, we are conditioned to look for text chat as the primary method of passing information within an internet scenario.
What we NEED, is a method of communication which is instantly available (running at default startup) to all users.
It needs to be visual, because if you dont have vision then you arent coming to Hifi. Can we agree on that?
When anyone installs anything new they generally look for some guidance, most modern games etc. have a walkthru overlay that gives instructions to every new user, it can be turned off when the noob feels confident. These instructions should probably inform the new user that voice is the primary method of communication and if you want an alternative to the voice then here's how you simply engage one of the available text chat options.
In exactly the same way as the user must be informed as to how to get a proper avatar, unless they want to remain a cyberegg with arms and blue eyes forever, and how to go to a different place, and how to buy stuff from the marketplace. Its all unknown to the new user at first but they will do what they need to do to get their "log-on" the way they want it. If they want text chat then they can have text chat, I dont see a problem here.
Where I see the problem is lack of information to the new user, we need a way of informing the new user immediately on login that there are many options available not the least of which is a list of available text chat scripts that can be run at the click of a button.
My suggestion is to create an overlay, not a screen obscuring panel that has to be clicked off before you can do anything. An overlay that clearly says
If you do not have a Mic and Headphones you will need an alternative chat system.
Click here if you want to run a text chat script.
This click should open the Marketplace at the Scripts/Text Chat subfolder to remove any doubt and make life easy.
Maybe at interface launch if a mic and headset are not both detected then this overlay appears every time until dismissed.