i think it's because chat threads don't give as instant of a response as a chat room .. like .. while your responding to a chat thread .. you might miss out on someone else's comment that you would have responded to .. if you weren't already responding to someone else
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While I agree with everyone on the idea of a chat room, I would be willing to settle with at least having instant messages. It would be a good starting point that would not only be a good starting point for people getting to know each other better, but might also provide members access to information they need a little faster.