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It usually takes Steve 45 minutes from the time he starts his computer till he hears a knock on the door. As Tim, an inveterate chat-room user from Long Beach, Calif., says, "You cannot believe how much some of these guys lie.Tom Rielly, co-founder of Planet Out (which operates gay sites both on the Web and on AOL), thinks the Net is a lifeline for people unable or unwilling to come out in public. You can remain anonymous but participate in a community of people like yourself.It's the first medium to reach the closeted."Planet Out's mission, according to Rielly, is to help gays and lesbians meet each other online and off. "We've failed if all we do is connect people in cyberspace.Steve often has trouble getting into the virtual meat markets like Atlanta M4M, Atlanta M4M2 or Atlanta M4Mnow.
With a limit of 23 participants each, the six Atlanta rooms are always packed -- Steve has to hit the "return" key over and over to get in. The first thing you notice upon entering a gay chat room is the absence of, well, chat.
It turns out size does matter, and AOL has become the de facto online meet market largely because of its big member base."There are a lot of other gay Web sites that have chat rooms, but they came after the fact, after AOL," says Ron, a San Francisco marketing consultant who maintains two AOL accounts -- one for cruising and one for everything else.