Recently, a new statically-positioned grey bar appeared at the bottom of my Facebook screen! While static grey bars are all the rage these days, this one had a purpose–it was the interface for the new Facebook instant messaging system that’s currently being rolled out! (Apparently, not everyone has it yet, limiting its usefulness and the quality of my screenshots somewhat.)
The system, which looks very similar to the Gmail chat interface, allows you to chat in real-time with other Facebook users who happen to be online. Users’ current status messages are shown below their names, and a a user’s current published activities (wall posts, etc.) appear in the chat window as they occur. Additionally, the bar provides a new interface to the Facebook notification system; new notifications (messages in your inbox, friend requests, and the like) appear in the bottom right corner of the screen.
At first, such a utility might seem like a nuisance, and, worse, an invasion of privacy. But, like the news-feed and mini-feed, it shows no more information that one could already access via browsing Facebook. (Indeed, for the last year or so, a user’s online status has been available on their profile, unless explicitly disabled.)
The chat presents an even more interesting concept–while instant messaging has been around for quite some time now, Facebook’s system allows you to instant message those who don’t use conventional IM services, or perhaps are just acquaintances. While this could present an annoyance for those who don’t want to be bothered (don’t worry, there’s a setting to disable it in the privacy settings), it seems that it generally, could make keeping in touch easier and more efficient than ever before.
Indeed, the new Facebook notification bar/instant messaging tool promises to become the WAVE OF THE FUTURE!