Home Facebook Launches Chat

Facebook Launches Chat

As expected, Facebook announced that they will be launching Facebook Chat this week. The announcement, made via a post on The Facebook Blog, says that the rollout will be slow, but, unlike MySpaceIM, there won’t be anything for you to install when it arrives in your profile – you’ll just have a new “Chat Bar” at the bottom of your browser. On the one hand, Facebook needed to launch chat in order to compete with the News Corp giant, but on the other, we have to wonder, do we need another IM?

Facebook IM takes a page out of Gmail’s GTalk, mimicking the way that browser-based IM functions – it even offers a way to pop-out your conversation window, so you can continue browsing Facebook without losing track of your chat session.

In addition to the pop-out feature, Facebook chat, like any IM program, lets you appear “offline” if you don’t want to chat. The conversations are private, and the chat sessions history is saved from page to page and between login sessions, but not permanently. You can also clear the chat history at any time using a provided link in the conversation window to do so.

Facebook Chat – Image from Inisde Facbook

Facebook Chat does offer one unique feature – it embeds your Mini-Feed activity into the conversation, in real-time, as it occurs. This is interesting, but why is this useful? So your chat can be interrupted with your score from that trivia game you were playing, revealing your inattention to the conversation at hand? This setting is on by default, so multi-taskers beware.

Now that we have Facebook Chat, where does this leave the other services whose existence practically depended on Facebook’s lack of IM capabilities? One such application that comes to mind is Social.IM, whose claim to fame is that their use of Facebook’s API lets you chat with your Facebook friends. Will they now try to compete with the integrated chat on a feature-by-feature basis or possibly revamp themselves as a universal IM program, a la Trillian?

Friendvox seems doomed too for the same reasons, but newly launched Babuki at least had the foresight to launch as a universal IM and social network client, letting you chat on the traditional IM networks as well as with your LiveJournal and MySpace friends.

Also on deathwatch are the two pages of instant messaging applications on Facebook itself, who will soon find themselves without any users, thanks to Facebook chat.

In the future, Facebook Chat may add Chat APIs and Jabber support, at least according to Facebook’s Matt Cohler, but today’s Facebook blog post made no mention of that.

Finally, with today’s conversations happening more often on networks like Twitter, we wonder if we really need another IM. Will the addition of chat make you log into Facebook more than before? Probably not. If anything, it’s just one more attempt to get us to play inside Facebook’s walled garden – a place that is rapidly losing its appeal for many.

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