Imagine designing the user experience for Facebook, where even the slightest change has the potential to irritate millions of users. Not a job for the weak-minded.
Facebook recently altered the appearance of its chat feature for those viewing the site in a Web browser--and not everybody is happy about it. Previously, the simple chat system would show a list of online friends in a small box on the lower right side of the browser window. It was easy to use and unobtrusive.
In contrast, the new chat sidebar stretches from top to bottom on the right side of the window. The social area no longer is a small list of only those who are online, but rather a group of people the popular social-networking site thinks you'll want to speak to, regardless of whether they're online.
There is no option to edit the list of people in this area. If those predetermined "top" friends aren't online, the chat box has an option to send them a message. Online friends not on this list must be searched for manually, which is slightly frustrating.
Facebook said it moved the chat menu so users on wide-screen monitors could always see their friends. The social sidebar can be hidden by clicking on the gear icon, then selecting "Hide sidebar." Firefox and Chrome users wishing for the old setup should also check out the "Facebook Sidebar Chat Reversion" script.
Overall, the functionality of Facebook chat has improved, especially since Facebook has made things easier with streamlined messaging, as well as the addition of video chat. Our Friday Poll asks if you dig the new digs, or if Facebook should go back to the drawing board. Be sure to elaborate in the comments.