I wrote a simple chat this way, much like the Chatterbox, no rooms, but some autoformatting, sessioning, cookies and such. The trick to making it really zoom for me was making it into a daemonized server so that it was always running and always had its tied handle on the DB_File beneath. It was quite a bit faster than the relational DB that drove the page around/above it (even using some of the same DB code to handle users/sessions). The chat was iframed so it could reload independently of the regular site.
The trick then is the daemonizing code and handling the HTTP and such. Even for a queue of lines of chat it turns into a lot of code (there is also POE and more already done out there for mini-applications). I've recommended this book before: "Network Programming with Perl" ISBN 0201615711. I'd never done that type of code before but managed to write a chat-daemon server that never needed restarting in 2 years and ran far faster than I expected.
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