I hate the bottom toolbar on Facebook. I simply never remember it’s there for things like applications and quick access to photos. But it is fairly useful as a place to store your IM buddy list so it’s mostly out of sight but still open. And that’s exactly what MySpace is now using it for.
Starting today, users across the social networking site in English speaking countries (Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the US) will see a prominent bright blue bar across the bottom portion of their screens. On the right side of that bar resides MySpaceIM, the service’s instant messaging client. It works and looks exactly like Facebook’s integrated IM but the settings are a bit more accessible since they reside on the bar as well. And, to be fair, other services like Gmail have made this on-site chat in the lower right hand corner, a standard too.
MySpace has confirmed the site-wide rollout today and says they had been beta testing it for a little while with Canadian users, and some users in the UK apparently also had access. Previously, the service had a downloadable IM client that worked with Skype. This onsite IM service doesn’t offer the Skype option — the two will work with one another though.
Having a stand-alone client always seemed like an odd choice, as the point of these social networks is to keep everything integrated on the site. And though it was set in motion as a test before the change of power at MySpace, this is one of the first major changes to the site since new MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta took over. And interestingly enough, new COO Mike Jones previously founded Userplane, an online chat service, so he undoubtedly knows a thing or two about services like this.
As with Facebook IM, you’ll be able to customize who can see you’re online and who cannot. You can also block certain users. And you can pop out IM into its own window. But my favorite feature may be the ability to collapse the chat bar by clicking the arrows all the way to the right. And that doesn’t boot you offline, it just puts your status in the lower-right corner and removes the screen-wide bar.
The fact that this bar is screen-wide by default does seem a bit odd. Unlike Facebook, MySpace isn’t using this for anything else, such as applications. At least not yet. The IM bar will also not work with IE6, which I fully support as that’s the worst browser in the world.
This bar will roll out to other countries over the next few months, MySpace tells us. You can find more details here.