The chat here seems to be very popular… but the format is -awful-.
The biggest problem is that it lags like crazy for most people. (there are other problems, but they’re preference based…)
An IRC based chat would be infinitely better… no lag, better feature set, more flexibility with how you connect. You could use a real irc client if you want, and still keep a java/flash entrance for the board.
You can force people to use their board name as well. Only make the java/flash chat entrance available to those logged in, and have it pick up their name.
Then on the IRC side for those who want to connect directly, set up services and require people to register their name.
So essentially the average user would see no major change in how they chat other than the lag going away, and those of us that use real chat clients would be much more likely to chat consistently. Win/Win.