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chat A name zips out from the bottom, and appears prominently along the task bar of the browser.

As if that wasn’t dramatic enough, a little red bubble pops up next to the name, insistently telegraphing its need for attention.

This is Facebook Chat, which unless you’ve been living under ground for the last few weeks, you know about.

I used it for the first time yesterday to have a normal conversation like you would have on MSN or GTalk. Before that it was all short exchanges.

Facebook Chat is the 100M sprinter of IM. Its useless at going the distance.

As browser based chat, like using gchat from inside gmail, its vulnerable to user stupidity. Specifically, my stupidity. I’m in a browser instead of a chat window, and liable to surf away. Facebook chat which is more unobtrusive than gtalk is more prone to this.

Which leaves people talking to me in the lurch. People don’t like being left in the lurch. I don’t like leaving people in the lurch. Tis not polite.

Secondly, Facebook Chat is function light. Through integration with gmail, gchat lets you send messages that the person can read later as an email. MSN has something similar.

If you surf away from Facebook though and a person sends you a message, you don’t get it unless you return to Facebook quickly. Facebook chat doesn’t give you that margin of appreciation.

Finally there’s no way to archive a conversation. Gchat does this as part of your Gmail inbox, which is a smart integrated solution. MSN keeps local copies.  Facebook hasn’t gotten to that stage.

Not that these can’t happen, just that it hasn’t happened yet.

As a result given that the above are all features that every desktop client of worth has,  there needs to be a desktop client for Facebook chat.

This I concluded all by myself last night.

I’d like to think that I had some role, telepathically, in making that vision a reality, because when I ambled on to Techcrunch today morning, I was greeted with the desired result.

Apparently, an IM client that I’ve never heard of called Digsby has managed to integrate Facebook chat into its list of supported protocols.

I say apparently because Digsby is downloading at an utter snail’s pace. When it finishes, I’ll fire it up and see how it goes. As it truly is multiprotocol, I may even be able to get rid of all the other IM clients I now use, and simplify simplify simplify into one.

Watch this space.

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3 Comments

  1. Because of the way I surf the web (I like to open links in new tabs) surfing away from the FB page is not a problem. However with browser chat there is no sound notification when someone IM you out of the blue. This means unless I am starting a conversation I might as well turn it off as I too dislike ignoring people, even if it is unintentional.

    I guess having a desktop app will solve these problems, but you didn’t mention why you would prefer chat in FB over say MSN. As with all chat programs you are forced to use whatever most of your friends are using so is it the case that most of the friends you chat with are already on FB?

    • mtalib
    • Posted May 4, 2008 at 11:34 pm
    • Permalink

    You’ve hit the nail on the head Dom.

    Facebook chat fills a need that doesn’t exist.

    The people I usually chat with I have on MSN or GTalk. What Facebook adds are a lot of people that I wouldn’t normally chat with.

    In an ideal world I’d take the opportunity to start chatting with them. In the real one, with me spending less and less time on MSN / GTalk, it’s adding more choice, but less useful choice.

    Combine that with the technical limitations and there is little reason to use Fbook chat at all.

  2. I’ve been using Digsby for several months now and it has proven to be the most versatile and useful IM/email notification/social network notification tool I’ve seen. I was initially just looking for a desktop app that supported facebook chat but this is so much more and I have really found value in it. I recommend it to all my firends! Well, all my PC friends, anyway. Still waiting on the Mac build.


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