Valve’s answer to Discord is now live for everyone

Just a month ago, Valve announced Steam Chat — an overhaul to its aging chat system, and the company’s answer to rapidly growing competition from apps like Discord. At the time, it was a beta limited only to those who were granted access.

Today it’s opening up to all.

As Devin put it when the beta features rolled out, the previous chat system “may as well be ICQ.” It was useful for a quick chats, but it felt much too limited for anything beyond that.

The new Steam Chat, meanwhile, takes a huge step toward being a modern chat offering. It groups contacts by the game they’re playing, shows whether or not they’re currently in-game or in a match, offers easy access to your “favorite” contacts and allows for big group chats and persistent channels. It supports inline media (GIFs! SoundCloud! YouTube!), encrypted voice chat and has both a browser-based client and a client built into Steam.

Will it kill Discord? Probably not.

While it might stymie the losses of the more casual players who might otherwise find their way over to Discord, it’ll be tough to sway anyone who has already come to call Discord home. Many Discord gaming groups have deep roots, with many of them having elaborate channel setups and relying on bespoke customizations like bots that help them schedule matches or raids.

If you want to check out the new chat system and already have Steam installed, just pop into Steam and tap the “Friends and Chat” button in the bottom right.

WhatsApp copies Telegram to add one-way ‘broadcast’ mode to group chats

“Good artists borrow great artists steal” is a phrase that Facebook seems acutely aware of.

It’s common to speak of Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo-app-now-social-network, borrowing from Snapchat, but now Facebook’s WhatsApp chat app is increasingly drawing its innovation from others such as Telegram.

This week, WhatsApp outed a new feature for its groups that is essentially a replica of Telegram’s channels — that is, a one-way broadcast communication stream.

Telegram channels are popular for setting up a broadcast news feed that allows people to sign up to get alerts from channel admins, who might be news agencies, companies, schools, public interest groups or more. Now WhatsApp is adding the feature to gives its message app new use cases.

Actually, as is often the case for WhatsApp, users have unofficially adopted channel-like behavior for some time. Last year, for example, there were reports of a rural journalist using the messaging app to report and broadcast local news. Doing that is suddenly a whole lot easier through this new ‘broadcast-only’ feature.

“One way people use groups is to receive important announcements and information, including parents and teachers at schools, community centers, and non-profit organizations. We’ve introduced this new setting so admins can have better tools for these use cases,” WhatsApp wrote in a short blog post.

Still, the fact that WhatsApp requires users to provide a phone number to join groups — anyone’s number can be looked up by any group member — is one issue when it comes to creating or joining public groups. Telegram has introduced usernames, which mitigate that issue, but still, the app doesn’t have anything like WhatsApp’s scale which is a crucial consideration when deciding which app to plump for.

WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion active users, more than 200 million of which are in India, whereas Telegram recently passed 200 million active users worldwide.

Twitch launches always-on chat rooms for channels

 Game streaming site Twitch today is debuting an always-on chat room feature it’s simply calling “Rooms.” The addition was first announced at its developer event TwitchCon back in October, and was expected to launch before year-end. That timing shifted a bit, but the feature is going live today across both web and mobile for Twitch users worldwide. Rooms are custom chat… Read More