When I logged into my Facebook account yesterday, I was surprised to see a box in the lower right corner welcoming me to Facebook Chat. It was surprising for a couple of reasons, but mainly because I knew I hadn’t signed up for chat and there it was telling me that I could start conversations. As it turns out, Facebook just started to roll-out this new Chat service to users and there’s not an option to opt-in, users just automatically have it (although not everybody will have the chat feature at this point).

After trying it out, it actually reminds me of how Google implemented Gmail Chat right inside Gmail except I believe Facebook has actually done a better job at integrating their chat. At this point it’s a basic chat without mounds of features. Conversations end up being tabbed across the bottom of the screen, and there’s even an option to “pop-out” the chat into a new window. Below is a screenshot of what a conversation would look like:

facebook chat 2

If for some reason you do not want your friends to see that you’re online, there’s an option to “Go Offline.” Settings include the option to show mini-feed stories right within chat and to “Keep online Friends Open.” Your chat window(s) will stay open as you navigate throughout Facebook and won’t close until you navigate away from the site. The chat feature adds a whole new element of communication to Facebook and could end up being a decent threat to other IM clients.

As though people don’t spend enough time already on Facebook, this addition could mean people spend even more time on the social network site keeping in touch with friends.The folks at Facebook have said that the process of rolling out Facebook Chat to all users will be a gradual process, so if you don’t have it quite yet, sit back and relax, you’ll have it soon.

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