a couple of days ago i was pondering the value of connections versus conversations because it’s clear that while there are many social networking sites out there that allow you to network – or connect – with people, most of them don’t help the average user leverage these connections into conversations on the sites. that is not to say that the conversations aren’t taking place, they are just taking place off the platforms or via person to person messages. with the imminent launch of a facebook instant messaging application, all of this is about to change.
i want to emphasize that facebook isn’t the first social network to do this, bebo has had this functionality for about 6-7 months though it is somewhat tied to microsoft’s windows live messenger. basically, any user can click on an ‘im me’ button in your profile and the social network opens an im window in your browser for you to initiate the chat. im curios to see how facebook plans on implementing this, via a profile-based application or in a pop-up browser window because facebook has the potential to set the tone for how the functionality is implemented across the board.
there is a very good reason why facebook might want to tie it to the site and not let the feature loose. the more restrictive it is, the more time people have to be logged in and using the site, and the higher (skewed) facebook’s attention metrics are. with the web moving from a visitors and page views metric to a time spent per visitor metric for measuring popularity, a decision to keep the instant messaging service localized would give facebook a major boost. this would be even more important to facebook because the application might make people want to drastically decrease their usage of other features like poking, sending facebook messages, writing on each other’s walls and so forth. at the same time i do see how having it only on the site may become a major annoyance for many people, including myself.
regardless, in my opinion, instant messaging will be one of the most useful features to come to facebook in a long time. not only will it allow friends to chat with each other but i can see a huge potential for group chats and conferences. ideally, i would like this feature to be implemented so that when someone clicks the icon form your profile, the chat is opened in a window for whatever desktop application you use for chatting with people on a regular basis. not only would that ensure that all your contacts are stored in one location (though that problem can be avoided by importing/exporting contact lists) but would also allow for convenient conversation logging (which i find incredibly useful for recalling details and finding links people share with me over im).