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  • Facebook's New Chat Sidebar Feature

    New Facebook Chat: A Faster Way to Message?

    The new layout for Facebook’s online chat is a feature that is being rolled out to select users, so you might not have seen it yet. This morning as I was using Facebook I saw a new sidebar appear on the right side of my Facebook interface. Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook engineers mentioned this upcoming design change in their recent live product announcement where they announced the new Video Calling feature.

    The new layout allows users with enough browser width (I can see it on a 13″ Macbook) to see a large sidebar displaying all friends currently online.

    Here is a section from Facebook’s guide to using the chat sidebar, which explains how to tell if a friend is available or not:

    Why the Change?

    In his video calling announcement on the 6th, Zuckerberg mentioned the need for an easier way to access people currently online while you are using Facebook. I can’t help but compare Facebook chat to Google’s Gmail chat, which I have used much more than Facebook chat. It’s just easier.

    But now, especially compared to the small mash-up of thumbnail images of online friends that used to appear in the left column, the new Facebook chat layout is much more user-friendly. I can actually see a list of my most frequently messaged friends, and search by name for other people I might want to talk to.


    Chat and Messaging Coming Together

    When I click on a friend’s name, a separate box appears with not only our chat history, but also our messaging history.

    If a friend is not online, I can use this box to send them a message instead.

    Facebook is bringing chat and messaging together seamlessly. Video Calling is also now a part of the mix. When I try to video chat with someone who is not online, I can opt to send them a video message instead.

    What about Privacy?!?!

    If you are like me, one of the main reasons that you do NOT use Facebook chat, is because you only have a selected number of friends that you actually want to talk to. I usually turn off chat for this very reason. But there is a feature in chat that allows you to be visible as “online” to only a select list of friends. And this feature is NOT new. However, I plan to start using it now that the chat interface is much better.

    In order to change your online visibility, you must open the chat sidebar, and, at the very bottom of the screen, click on the Options icon in the far right corner. It looks like a mechanical cog:

    Then you will see several options that will change your visibility to other Facebook users. You can make yourself completely unavailable, which will allow you to use Facebook as usual without ever having a friend try to start a conversation with you. You can also hide the sidebar completely from this menu.

    But if you DO want to chat, and want to be visible just to your select group of friends, you can limit your availability from here as well. To do this, you will need to utilize lists. Choose the lists that you want to become “available” to, and you will have the option of turning these lists on an off in the future.

    Here is Facebook’s excellent resource that explains how to create and manage lists. Lists are a useful resource to utilize because they allow you to sort more than just chat. You can also use lists to invite larger groups to events, and to sort your newsfeed for information that is more relevant to you.

    If you choose to hide the chat sidebar, you will still see chat appear in the old location, in the left column of your homepage. But there is a new button that you can click to re-activate the sidebar:

    Read more about using lists to sort chat.

    For more info, check out Facebook’s Help Page on this topic: How to use the Sidebar


    1. im having a hard time seeing all my friends online as it only shows a random list of people. i like the older one cos it shows everybody who’s online and idle on facebook. do you have any solutions on how i can see all the online people again? im having a hard time using this new chat in facebook. please reply. thank u. 🙂

      • Hi Kathy. I think Facebook might be making some changes to the interface, because I used to see only the list of people online in the lists I had chosen to make myself available to. Now I see a list of many people who are not online, like you have described. I am not sure why this is happening! Like many of Facebook’s UI changes, sometimes we have to wait and see what happens as they fix the little bugs.

    2. please help me what to do i wanted to upgrade my side bar into a new chat side will be helpful for me thank you very much!

      • Analisa says:

        Grace, this is a feature being rolled out to users over time, I don’t think that there is a way to get it any sooner!

        • Grace, you can take mine – it’s a cumbersome downgrade to chat. It offers virtually no upgrade to the old chat system aside from the group messaging, and makes most of the old options, such as limiting the list to online friends or actually setting your own priorities for who you want to talk to instead of having an inept algorithm tell you, much more complicated.

          Essentially, it makes you take extra steps to get the same effects we already had, and adds next to nothing in return except more and more users getting frustrated and looking for other options, such as Twitter and Google +. It’s like taking 3 turns to make a right, and then claiming that it’s an “improved route”. Terrible design. Also very, very bug-ridden. Nothing personal, Analissa, but this is the farthest thing I have seen from “user-friendly” in years… and hiding the new sidebar has not allowed me or any of my friends to return to the old version – it won’t even stay hidden (one of the slew of active bugs on the site).

          • Analisa says:

            I appreciate your honest opinion about this, and I think that many other users agree. I have to say one thing in my own defense: when I wrote this blog post, the chat sidebar showed me all of my online friends ONLY, and there were little buttons that allowed you to toggle visibility to different lists both on and off. That all disappeared in the first day or so! Not sure why. As usual, we are at the mercy of Facebook…

          • Fair enough, and I hope you didn’t take any of my comments as a personal attack on you, as that was certainly not how they were intended. I think frustration is mounting with people against facebook, and as they have already begun to peak with people joining the site, they’re going to see more and more people dropping off as they get tired of having their experience impaired simply so the FB design team can boast about how innovative they are with their constant changes. I hope this frustration isn’t playing out on you simply because you did a review!

            • Analisa says:

              No, I don’t take the comments personally 🙂 I think it’s good to air out frustrations in an open discussion, which is what we hope to facilitate here on the blog. It’s also sometimes nice to play devil’s (or Facebook’s) advocate and get people to see both sides of the issues…

        • AngelinaChopra says:

          hey plz tell me how i can upgrade facebook’s new chat sidebar 

      • don’t do it! don’t do it! don’t do it!
        the new chat with the sidebar really sucks. you cannot see all of your online contacts but only some of them, and it’s facebook to decide who. you have to type the name of the person you want to chat with to check if he/she is online, if he/she doesn’t appear on the list that you are forced to see.
        this new chat with sidebar is the most idiotic idea mr. zuckerberg has ever had.

    3. Miguel Madeira says:

      “the new Facebook chat layout is much more user-friendly”

      No, it is not – in the old model the chat only shows the people who I really can chat (because they are online); in the new model, the chat shows almost everybody, creating an unnecessary confusion.

      • Analisa says:

        Miguel, I think there might be a bug or perhaps Facebook is making changes to the original “new” layout. When I first wrote my post, I could only see the people who were currently online, and there were controls to actually turn lists on and off. Now my interface look slightly different. Did you know, you can actually go back to the old layout by clicking on the options button and “hiding” the new sidebar. Then you will see the face mashup again in the left column.

        • No, if i hide the sidebar, I don’t see the face mashup in the left column as in the previous setting, which was so much better. pl advise how to go back to the previous setting.

    4. Maro Majsi says:

      i want to upgrade the video or voice chat
      it will be helpful for me if you help me
      thank you 😀

    5. i dont want the new sidebar how do i get the old chat back

    6. Thorbjørn says:

      I’d like to go back to the old chat system where clicking on “chat” bar at the bottom right of the page, a small window would appear. It was so much easier to use. Now when clicking on it the new sidebar appears, and all I can do is hiding it temporarily.

    7. This is the worst thing EVER. Clicking “hide Sidebar” doesn’t fix any of the problems. I really hope they give the option of the old chat back. The new chat bar requires my page to “refresh” when I actually want/don’t want to see the hideous thing(which isn’t good for games like Farmville that take a bit to load). Overall the old chat bar was more efficient.

      “When I click on a friend’s name, a separate box appears with not only our chat history, but also our messaging history.”

      If you updated your messages to FB Email(which came out before the chat), your chat history was logged and saved within each conversation with that person in your Inbox. It mashed together your normal messages with the chat logs. I actually don’t care about that, as it can be quite useful. What DOES bother me is that they make deleting conversations such a hassle.

      • Andie, I think you are among a large group of people who do not like the new chat 🙂 Hopefully we will get used to it over time, just like we have in the past with other major Facebook UI changes. Have you tried using Google+ yet? I would be interested to hear if you have, if you prefer their chat interface.

    8. Solution: All you can do is to use link: and give them into your bookmark, especially good solution is Opera sidebar. It looks and it working like old chat, but you will have it next to page that you actually use. It is the best and the one and only solution. This new chat is a big FAIL – it is my opinion! Zucky, think about it well!!

    9. Pankaj Upadhyay says:

      Hi Ana,

      I just got the sidebar rolled out on my facebook today. The dynamic nature isn’t that helpful as facebook can’t guess whom i want to interact with. It basically shows the chunk of users with whom i chatted recently. This means out of 20 online friends, i will see around 6-8 users which also include offline users as i chatted with them lately. Sounds bit stupid… Other awkward thing is that when i selected “Hide Sidebar”, i still couldn’t see thumbnails of users online on the left hand side.
      Hiding a sidebar means, i can know the numbers only. So, if i need to know who is among those sixteen, i need to open the sidebar and manually search them or wait for fb to dynamically show them in my list.

    10. A Faster Way to Message
      Just click to start a conversation with the friends you message the most. Your chat availability settings have not changed.

    11. Kasper O. Larsen says:

      Hey Analisa

      I won’t to see all my online friends in a quick and easy way so i can chat with them, not just a select few, like in this new sidebar thing. how can i do this?

    12. Hellooo,
      seems like the date when new features are published differes from country to country. Thats interesting, got this new chat feature today, more than 3 days after this tutorial has been posted!

      Anyhow I am facing a trouble. My firefox and my internet explorer are not showing up the “Try it now” button at all, and as a result I cant access my chatlist. Stupid me makes highly use of the hiding (groups) in the chat, so I cant write to about 50% of the people :(.

      Here is a screenshot, I am using the latest Firefox and an old version of the Internet Explorer!
      Any help would be greatly appreciated.. 🙂

    13. James A Gillin says:

      I don’t get a sidebar so how am I supposed to chat

    14. So, I can see the new thing on my sidebar about the new chat, but all I can see is this “A faster way to chat, just click to start a conversation with the friends you message the most. Your chat availability settings have not been changed”. And that’s it. The image above shows that a “learn more” link and a “try it now” button should show up as well. Mine does not have this. The only way I can see if anyone is online is if I search for them. When I click off of this message, it shows the tab “Chat(#)”. Any help on how I can get this all working again?

    15. i think the old chat layout is better! how can i revert back to the old one?

    16. Andrea Garcia says:

      I just upgraded but for some reason all my friends on the list show as offline even though my husband is beside me on his laptop and he is online. I show up as offline on his list even though I clicked the available button. His list however shows people both offline and online and some that are online on his list are offline in mine. This is really frustrating. How can I fix this glitch?

    17. Its BS, worst addition to Facebook ever! Bring back the old chat. Seems the same time this rollout started, my Iphone app also started showing connection error in Facebook chat!

      If anyone has got a way of going back to the old chat, please share.

      • Analisa says:

        Chris, there are lots of other people who don’t like it either. Problem is, we don’t really have control over Facebook 🙁 I think it’s good to identify the specific user experience issues that we have, which is why we allow people to post comments here that express their issues. But let’s try to keep it positive!

        • I find the link supplied in the previous post very helpful, just have 2 windows open, one for main Facebook and the other for the chat window. I have made the chat window smaller so it can be moved somewhere convenient.

          Hope they dont go and change this on us now and force there “intelligent” chat on us.

          MSN had it down packed, Online/Offline/Away/Invisible… KISS option. If you want to message a friend and they are offline, type there name into the search bar and presto, you can send them a message.

          Now the “positive”… Facebook is good but please dont change the chat.

    18. On the right side of my FB, I have some chat and some friends. How do I eliminate the chat from there and just see friends?

    19. I guess I get it, but why did they have to remove the chat number. I feel blind and dumb not knowing how many are online since I use (used) that as a gauge to tell when activity was up. Any suggestions for still knowing when Facebook is HOT!?

    20. Helens1of7 says:

      How can I get the options cog so I may appear offline while checking posts?  I have nothing on my sidebar at all but peoples thumbnails

    21. Golikethewind says:

      I lost my chat sidebar and now can’t chat to anyone can only email my friends in facebook fix or bring the old one back

    22. Glinda1129 says:

      I cannot uncheck availability in my chat sidebar, I click it then it minimizes I open it again and it is still checked, Any Ideas!!!??????????????

    23. Why when I am in chat, only some photos appear next to names of those who are not in chat?  I know that if a person is in chat there is a green dot next to their name, and their photo appears.  But there are times when a person is not in chat, but their photo is still there?  I’m thinking that maybe it is because they were recently on chat maybe?  Your thoughts?

      • As far as I can tell, Facebook is serving up your “top” friends in the chat sidebar, even if they are not online to chat. I agree, it’s pretty counter-intuitive! But I think they want to encourage you to message your friends even if they are not live on chat, because if you do, they will still get that note as a private message when they log in to Facebook.

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