Print 14 comment(s) - last by ImSpartacus.. on Apr 13 at 3:26 PM

Facebook guns for AIM, Google chat

One key challenge facing Facebook is how to diversify.  The company owns one of the top two spots in social networking and boasts millions of users, is reportedly worth billions, and has been courted by Microsoft.  Yet despite all this success, the company faces stagnation unless it can find new markets to grow its business.  Competitor MySpace has already done this in some respects by heavily promoting its music functionalities and by soon launching its own iTunes competitor.

Now Facebook has decided to leverage its user base of millions of users to expand it a surprisingly logical and fitting market-- instant messaging.  Facebook, which has 69 million reported users, previously featured an email like messaging system and a bulletin board system known as "The Wall", but lacked real time messaging features. 

Now Facebook Chat, a new feature that is being automatically rolled out, will allow users to see which of their friends are available and with just a click message available friends in real time.  There's no need to build a friends list, as most users already have long lists of their friends.  And you'll never forget who someone on your buddies list is, as you can just peek at their profile.

The new chat feature only supports one on one chat, making it very similar to AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), the current number 1 IM program in the United States.  Users can view previous conversations, but conversations are only stored for a short time and can be deleted at any time.

Chats take two forms:  either through typing at the bottom of the screen, or by typing in a separate pop up window.  If users wish they can allow information about chats to appear in their mini feed.  This may concern some users, for privacy reasons, but Facebook feels that the issues are properly dealt with.

Josh Pasek, a graduate student in political communication at Stanford University, thinks the program will spell trouble for market leader AIM.  Says Pasek, "[Facebook Chat] looks like it's going to be an interesting and useful feature.  My bet is that this will surpass [Google's] GChat as No. 2 behind AIM, because it's so universally used and logged into."

Likewise Patrick Thornton, who runs The Journalism Iconoclast says that between Gmail's chat and Facebook's new chat, he will now be able to IM any of his friends and no longer needs AIM.  Thornton states, "Facebook is a platform that allows people to connect in much deeper and more visceral ways than a standalone IM client ever could.  Why just talk to someone when you can experience them? That's what Facebook allows people to do."

Thornton and many others believe that Facebook’s fuller features in addition to messaging will make AIM go the way of the dinosaur.  AOL spokesperson Erin Gifford disagrees and points out that AIM users can incorporate their screen names into their profiles.  By clicking on the screen name of a friend, it will pop up and IM window in AIM if they're online.  It also shows their AIM status in the Facebook profile.  States Gifford, "We believe that AIM users will continue to use AIM within Facebook and from wherever they are on the Web and on the go."

AOL has its own social network, which competes with MySpace and Facebook, so it’s no stranger to competition against the younger company.  AOL's social network boasts over 80 million users thanks to the acquisition of Bebo, one of the most popular foreign networks.

Facebook declined to comment on the situation.  Facebook's chief social networking competitor Myspace already put out an IM program called MySpaceIM, but despite its 110 million users has not seen major use of it.

Previously, Facebook supported chats only through third-party applications.  This will be the first official chat feature, appearing on all profiles.  While users can appear as if they are online by choice, like in AIM, one privacy concern is that you can block someone from chatting with you if they're your friend.  Russell Beaumont-Ede of Exeter, England, shares these concerns, but feels that Facebook has taken its time and created a solid product, stating, "I believe that this feature has been developed over a long period of time, which to me would ease any concerns I have."

The new service adds to the jumbled mess that is among the undoings of unified communication.  User can juggle conversations on AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger, Gmail and Facebook among others.   Gil Varod, a computer programmer based in New York complains, "Not only do I need to keep each of the IM programs open now, but I also need to keep a copy of Gmail open in my browser, and now a copy of Facebook open in my browser.  It's not like I need five different e-mail programs open to e-mail five different people."

Varod is a believer in client services such as Digsby or Pidgin, which consolidate your buddy lists, allowing you to talk to anyone.  He hopes someone gets these programs working Facebook Chat he states.

On Sunday the new service rolled out and as of Tuesday, Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, Yale and Brown were among the networks that had added the feature.

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Can someone tell Gil about...
By joemoedee on 4/10/2008 11:17:44 AM , Rating: 3
Gil Varod, a computer programmer based in New York complains, "Not only do I need to keep each of the IM programs open now, but I also need to keep a copy of Gmail open in my browser, and now a copy of Facebook open in my browser. It's not like I need five different e-mail programs open to e-mail five different people."

Pidgin or Trillian possibly? That will take care almost all of his IM programs, depending on protocol Facebook uses maybe all of them.

Programmers. Bah. *shakes head* ;p

RE: Can someone tell Gil about...
By NEOCortex on 4/10/2008 12:11:22 PM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty sick of the ever growing amount of IM programs out there. I personally use Trillian at home to unify as many of the programs as possible, but Trillian development has been lagging behind for quite a while now. I'll continue to use Trillian as long as I have friends on yahoo and MSN, but the discontinuities between Trillian and the "real" program can be annoying at times.

Unless this Facebook messenger can be a stand-alone program, there is no way I'm going to use it, and even then I probably won't use it.

RE: Can someone tell Gil about...
By JoshuaBuss on 4/10/2008 1:53:51 PM , Rating: 2
try meebo or pidgin.

By Master Kenobi on 4/10/2008 1:59:34 PM , Rating: 3
If Trillian would stop being lazy and get around to rolling out Astra we might be ok.

RE: Can someone tell Gil about...
By 3v1lkr0w on 4/11/2008 5:09:10 AM , Rating: 2
I with you, Trillian needs to get off their lazy arses!!! Ive been using Trillian for a while now, and I love it...cept for video chat, for some reason 95% of the time i attempt to do video chat, it doestn work, so I have to log into the real program...

By ImSpartacus on 4/13/2008 3:26:03 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. Five networks are not too many to stay up to date with. I love trill, and still use it, but it has many of the networks' deeper features stripped out of lack of support.

I just gave up and only use it for im'ing. It works alright. I still wouldn't mind an update here and there.

By nocturnal9 on 4/10/2008 10:16:10 PM , Rating: 2
Varod is a believer in client services such as Digsby or Pidgin, which consolidate your buddy lists, allowing you to talk to anyone.

Read the full article! *shakes head*

By gradoman on 4/10/2008 2:25:49 PM , Rating: 2
as if there weren't enough IMs out there already!! Adium, Trillian -- thank you very much.

RE: Wow...
By Captin Crunch on 4/10/2008 11:13:44 PM , Rating: 2
If this chat feature only allows for one on one and it uses your friends list to populate the chat list. What happens if you have 350 friends, 100 are online, and 50 want to talk to you at the same time? Not that I’m that friendly, but it could get crowded.

It's not another chat client!
By MScrip on 4/11/2008 1:14:47 AM , Rating: 3
I'm sick of people complaining that this is another chat client that they have to keep up with.

This is adding chat capability to an established online community that you already belong to! Plus, Facebook is a website... why would you want an external client anyway? If you want that, just chat with people on AIM instead. But good luck with finding your friends on AIM. Oh, you can go to their Facebook profile to get their screen name. :)

I hardly ever use AIM anymore though. I just message people on Facebook or leave Wall posts on their profile. That's good enough. And the only people I send actual e-mail to are family members.

Say what you want about Facebook, but it is my photo sharing, messaging and quick communication tool. If there was one killer online community... Facebook would be it.

By dagamer34 on 4/10/2008 5:02:59 PM , Rating: 2
Adium is my saviour.

By Zensen on 4/11/2008 11:47:20 AM , Rating: 2
I'm a user of facebook and I do find uses for it but am not a big fan of it. The fact they are rolling out facechat whatever is a novelty but i seriously wouldn't want to have a big list of people online and all wanting to chat with me. hopefully there's a off button :)

I mean, those I really care about will be on my msn, yahoo, icq list. I rather enjoy the messages left on my wall or private message. Chat takes the fun out of it all to be honest. That'll be seeing the off switch. I love my emails and private messages more.

the days where I use to get mail other than bills were great. IM'ing is great but I thorougly enjoy my emails when they are chains mails or from nigeria :)

Facebook - stagnating, I can see that. Face chat great but a novelty.

Thats pretty cute.
By gladiatus on 4/10/08, Rating: -1
RE: Thats pretty cute.
By nekobawt on 4/10/2008 1:46:39 PM , Rating: 2
ah, spam...

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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