Update: The Proximity Text Chat mod for Fallout 76, which originally allowed players who had the mod installed to send text messages to each other from a distance of 100 in-game meters, has received an update. Now it features global chat, so players anywhere on the server can communicate via text. Again, this requires anyone who wants to send or view text chat messages to have the mod installed.
I haven't tried this mod for myself yet, but the mod's page on Nexus Mods outlines some of the new features. The global text chat can be disabled by mod users if they wish, and it even has a feature that allows users to block other players using the mod, if need be. Players can swap between global and proximity chat with a simple command, and the chat pane, once opened, will vanish after a period of inactivity. You can even scroll through your last 100 messages with the arrow keys. This mod is already sounding pretty robust.
To address some user concerns that text messages were being stored on a third-party server and potentially viewable to others, the modder, Liyalai, says TLS encryption has been added to the mod.
"However there is a bug with the client right now not recognizing the server cert, I'll fix this when I can," the modder states in a discussion post.
If you're interested, keep reading the original story below, and keep in mind that Bethesda does not support mods for Fallout 76. We don't know what effects mods can have on Fallout 76, or what repercussions we might face for using them. Be cautious!
Original story: Fallout 76 shipped with a number of absent features, and one of the biggest misses Bethesda made was not including text chat. The lack of this extremely standard multiplayer feature means players can only communicate with mics and emotes, which is a major problem for players who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as for those who simply don't want to play with open mics. While Bethesda told me it is "looking into" adding text chat in the future, there has been no further mention of it in its roadmaps or future patch outlines.
One modder decided not to wait. The Proximity Text Chat mod, created by Liyalai, adds a local text chat feature to Fallout 76. The mod says it allows players to type and send messages to one another at a range of 100 in-game meters, slightly further than the distance at which you're able to read a player's nametag. Any player you wish to text chat with will also need to have the mod installed, and if they do, you will see their nametag in blue.
I haven't tested the mod myself, and there are a few extremely important things to note if you're considering it. First, Bethesda does not support Fallout 76 mods. Its warning only states that "such applications may result in Fallout 76 not functioning properly" but there may be other consequences to using mods with Fallout 76 (like a ban). We simply don't know at this point, so if you mod Fallout 76, you are taking a risk.
The other issue with this mod, brought up by several Nexus Mods community members, are related to how these messages are being sent and received.
"This mod is only functional because of the use of a third party server," the mod's page reads. "The only information that is sent to the server is, nearby players, your name (the one visible to everyone), and your message. None of this information is stored. Player clients do not interact with one another, all communication happens with the server, the server then relays the message to the appropriate players."
A Nexus Mods member points out that requires a certain degree of trust on the user's part, however:
"You are receiving plain text messages to a third-party server that we only have your word are not archived or seen by any other party, correct?" the Nexus Mods says on the mod's discussion page. "There are no security provisions that follow applicable law in whatever part of the world you are based, nor are there any guarantees that you will not use the information for purposes that are outside the bounds of scope of the application? We just have a 'trust me'?"
In other words, tread with extreme caution if you decide to use this mod. You can find the Proximity Text Chat mod, along with installation instructions, on Nexus Mods.