For those of you who (like me) check Facebook on a daily basis, you probably noticed the new addition of the chat bar on the bottom of the screen yesterday.
I’d previously read blog posts about the Facebook chat feature and was looking forward to seeing what it would be like. Luckily I was able to have a play as a fellow Facebooker and librarian, Katharine Widdows was also online and wanting to give it a go. I have to say, I’m very pleasantly surprised. The instructions when you first log on are very clear, concise and easy to understand. By default, you are online as soon as you log on, but you can change this if you wish (I know some people found it disruptive). You can easily see who else is online by clicking on the Online Friends tab (see below), and start a conversation with them by clicking on their name.
At first I wasn’t aware when people had messaged me (I’m a terrible tab flicker and often leave tabs open even when I’m not using them). The chat bar does show when you have new messages and the tab header changes to say “New Message” so you can still tell if you’re on another tab but its not too disruptive if you leave it on unintentionally (no flashing pop ups or anything like that!). You can choose to open it in a separate window if you want to much like Meebo too, or add it to your sidebar in Firefox.
I think it’s great for quickly catching up with people and having short conversations. Katharine and I discussed how it could maybe be used as a library enquiry service, but this would only really work if users added the librarian as a personal friend, which many may wish not to do.
You can currently only have one to one conversations but I think Facebook may well continue to develop things like group conversations if it takes off. That sort of thing could be great for students doing group work (or staff working on a project) to discuss their progress or ideas.
I’m certainly impressed with Facebook’s initial developments into a chat tool, the main advantage being how quick and easy it is to use.