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Chatting it up @Home

With a new service, @Home wants subscribers to come inside and chat awhile.

Online chat is coming to @Home.

CNET has learned that executives of the fledgling Internet-access company tomorrow will announce the addition of the Talk City chat service to its network. Talk City features more than 650 moderated chats per week managed by 70 hosts.

@Home users will be able to click on a "community" button to get a schedule of Talk City's chats.

Chat services are part of a growing trend by online services to help build a loyal customer base through sense of community. Chat also is one of the most popular features on the Net because it takes full advantage of the Internet's interactivity.

In recent months, online community guru Howard Reingold launched Electric Minds and America Online added 3D chat called Virtual Places. Yahoo has added voice to chat.

"We recognize that chat is an integral component to building community within our service," @Home chief executive Tom Jermoluk said. "By bringing Talk City into our fold, we aim to quickly lay the foundation for meaningful communication among our members."

Added Peter Friedman, chief executive of LiveWorld Productions, the producer of Talk City: "With strategic partners such as @Home Network, we are creating a larger network of communities on the Net."

Friedman is a former Apple executive who recently launched LiveWorld. Investors include former Apple chief executive John Sculley.