Ever look at your Facebook chat sidebar and think “I wonder how many of these little green icons are actually sitting at a computer or idly on their phone with Messenger still open?” No? Well for those of you who did, wonder no more: Facebook is testing a feature that indicates in plain English who’s at a desktop and who’s on a smartphone.
Of the testing, Facebook tells us: “This feature gives you a better understanding of where your friend will receive your message.”
It is something of a help, because beforehand it could be difficult to tell who was actually staring at a screen, ready to talk to you. Many people stayed perma-logged via a Messenger desktop app, or never logged on the mobile app. A chat to one of these people would yield a stony, depressing silence. (Not really, but for hyperbole’s sake, let’s say so.) If I see someone is on my chat bar and they have the smartphone icon by his or her name, I’m much less likely to send them a message; I know when I’m on my smartphone, I’m not going to take much time to write out long or interesting responses, so I don’t expect my friend to either. Perhaps the simple “Web” or “Mobile” indicators will be enough to get us chatting more when we know someone is sitting solidly, expectantly at a computer, waiting for our witty banter to begin.
The only other factor here is that in the wake of Facebook’s spurned offer to Snapchat and ample news about the social network losing its coolness, Facebook might be trying to amp up its focus on mobile and messaging once again. It’s not only Snapchat: Social-mobile Apps like WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat continue to chip away at Facebook’s reputation, and usurp it’s reputation as the social network to use. There could be some trial and error going on here to find a better way to fit in to this niche market.