Yahoo chat from the earliest days.... Ah, I remember it well. Dial-up and pick the room, and watch the different names and the convo go back and forth for a bit before chiming in. And then you're watching the little window for that one name that you're talking to.No doubt they'd prove me wrong and dig something up that doesn't even reach 1997 AIM chat features.
Of course, they also had what you've called "whisper", I think - a separate window would pop up if you wanted to talk to someone privately or one-on-one. I got propositioned a lot that way, though I frequently had to correct people on their gender assumption.
But that is one thing that Inno might be leery of implementing such a global system for (I don't think I said that right, but here goes anyway): I think it was Soggy who said somewhere recently that sometimes Elvenar gets advertised on adult-only sites. And when that happens there's an influx of inappropriate user names (I had one in Sinya that described a specific act, even). So it's possible that, this being a family game and having players under the age of 18 (I think? I'm positively ancient by teenager terms, which to those who don't have a teen in their household means "over thirty"), that the devs are concerned about policing a universal chat especially if they allow the use of functions that allow for communicating on a live channel privately. It's not the same as communicating in PMs. And though our FS chat retains so many messages, would the universal chat or even a more private live chat window be able to do the same?
What kind of load would retaining all of those messages put on the servers?
I'm bringing that up not because it can't be done, but because I don't know what Inno's servers are capable of handling as far as traffic and data retention. We already have problems with having to move the mouse cursor off of something then back onto it to get the right info. We already have problems we call "laggy". So it's a necessary question: would Inno's US servers be able to handle this kind of data consumption?