Hotline Communications Limited (HCL) was a software company founded in 1997, based in Toronto, Canada, with employees also in the United States and Australia. Hotline Communications' main activity was the publishing and distribution of a multi-purpose client/server communication software product named Hotline Connect, informally called, simply, Hotline. Initially, Hotline Communications sought a wide audience for its products, and organizations as diverse as Avid Technology, Apple Computer Australia, and public high schools used Hotline. At its peak, Hotline received millions of dollars in venture capital funding, grew to employ more than fifty people, served millions of users, and won accolades at trade shows and in newspapers and computer magazines around the world.
Hotline eventually attracted more of an "underground" community,[clarification needed] which saw it as an easier to use successor to the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) community. In 2001 Hotline Communications lost the bulk of its VC funding, and went out of business later that month. All of its assets were acquired in 2002 by Hotsprings, Inc., a new company formed by some ex-employees and shareholders. Hotsprings Inc. has since also abandoned development of the Hotline Connect software suite; the last iteration of Hotline Connect was released in December 2003. Currently, only a few servers and trackers remain but the Hotline community is still alive.