Last Sunday, April 6, brought the launch of the long-awaited Facebook Chat. According to TechCrunch, the feature is so far only available to select members. According to Facebook, “we’re rolling this out slowly.” Not entirely surprising given the backlash that has previously occurred when FB releases new stuff without any warning or feedback and then people revolt.
When I saw the news, I checked my account and it turns out that I’m one of the lucky ones. Any idea what percentage of accounts have the functionality turned on so far? In any case, I was able to play around with it and, as usual, thought I’d post some pictures for those who care. Note: I’ve redacted names throughout to protect the innocent.
As you can see above, you get a notice in the bottom right corner once Facebook Chat has been turned on. Here’s a close-up of the new interface elements:
There are three clickable components:
- Online Friends: displays the number of your connections who are currently logged in to Facebook
- Notifications: displays the number of your unread notifications from Facebook apps and the like
- Facebook Chat: displays your online presence
What’s nice about the — for lack of a better term — taskbar is that rests at the bottom of the browser so you never have to scroll down to see it. Nice move.
When you click on Online Friends, a panel displays your friends who are currently logged in to Facebook (and have not set their presence to Offline). Friends who are idle are displayed with a moon icon below the line rule. It isn’t quite clear what “idle” means — have they been away from the keyboard for 10 minutes, have they not clicked on any Facebook links within the past hour, is Facebook not in their top-most browser window? If someone finds out, please let me know in the comments.
Click on any of your online friends and you can start a chat session. For each person you’re chatting with, a new panel appears in the taskbar. No matter where you are in the Facebook experience, you can access the full chat history with each pal. I like the lightweight approach and “portability” of information.
There is no special sound when someone else initiates a chat with you, but the browser tab flashes the alert:
Thanks to Sam Zaiss for helping me capture this!
Additionally, when you click on the Chat icon at the far-right, a panel displays your most recent status update along with a toggle for your online presence (“Online” by default when you log in with the option to show as “Offline”). As you can see below, the green dot is displayed when you are Online and the red dot when you are Offline.
Popout Chat opens a new browser window, while Settings lets you choose whether to show mini-feed stories in chat and keep Online Friends open.
Popping out the chat gives you a larger area for messages and a list of your online friends. When you click on a friend, their avatar pops into the chat area and thus the chat commences. You can have concurrent one-to-one conversations, but so far as I can tell you can’t converse with multiple people simultaneously. Since that’s essentially what the definition of “chat” is, I’d say this is a whopper of a misnomer. Seems more like web-based IM to me.
I’ll keep my eyes peeled for iterations on this design. Again, if anyone knows more details about the time period of this rollout or of any upcoming functionality, let us all know by posting in the comments!