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Talk City open for e-commerce

The chat community site launches its shopping area, where members can buy books, toys, and housewares.

Talk City, founded as a community Web site, today announced the launch of its shopping area, where members can buy toys, books, and housewares.

As previously reported, word of the announcement came on the same day that GeoCities, another online community, said it would get into the e-commerce business in a deal with Amazon.com. Both deals indicate the rush toward e-commerce as a moneymaking opportunity on the Web, even for chat sites and Internet directories such as Yahoo and Excite.

"Experts tell us that this is the year that e-commerce is taking off. We believe community is an incredible catalyst that will give online shopping more context--making it more accessible and comfortable for shoppers and more successful for merchants," said Peter Friedman, chief executive and president of Talk City, in a statement. "Being able to buy something while you're chatting about it is very powerful.

"At Talk City we view community and chat as the platform for the next wave of consumer interaction and marketing. We are committed to expanding our service to show how chat, when mixed with other Web technologies, can create community-building usages in ways that allow people of like interests to form quick and lasting connections," he added.

Chat sites often are popular with Netizens because they are noncommercial, but a Talk City spokeswoman described the e-commerce area as "nonintrusive." Analysts see this move as inevitable for Net companies as they seek to turn a profit. They also point out that many Netizens find e-commerce one of the most useful online features. In August, Talk City announced banner ads, dubbed "intermercials," that tell a story lasting up to four minutes.

Talk City's shopping features FAO Schwarz, the popular toy store; iPrint, a discount printing and stationery store; and CyberShop, an online department store that sells gifts, electronics, food, and housewares. The Talk City bookstore sells books through Amazon.com.

Talk City says it holds more than 10,000 moderated chat sessions per month. It faces competition from the likes of America Online, CompuServe, Web Chat, The Palace, and Electric Minds.