Late last night, Facebook tweaked its chat interface slightly to let users know what platform their friends are using to communicate.
Facebook’s previous chat system showed anyone who was currently engaged on the social network–whether through the company’s many mobile apps or through its website – as active using a small green dot next to their name in the chat interface, unless they were currently hiding their online status. Now, users will have either a “Mobile” or “Web” next to their status icon if they are logged in. Users who are available through a mobile app but who are not currently engaging with Facebook are still represented by a small, grey smartphone glyph.
The new change mirrors the look of Facebook’s newly-updated Messenger app for iOS and Android, which also includes new capabilities that make it possible to find contacts from your address book who are available on Facebook Messenger but you aren’t friends with on Facebook.
It’s a small change, but one that may have been spurred on by Google’s decision to allow users of Google Hangouts to automatically update their statuses with what devices they’re using to connect to the service. Knowing what platform someone is using to communicate provides context for why you’re getting multi-paragraph or mono-syllabic responses to your questions.
While a report by TechCrunch says that it’s a feature Facebook is “testing,” it seems to have made its way out to an unusually large number of my friends.
If you want to be able to go back to the days of a simple, green dot, you’re out of luck. It’s possible to go invisible on mobile or web if you want to control which platform people see as available, but there’s not a way to opt out from letting your friends see what device you’re using, unlike Google Hangouts.
We’ve reached out to Facebook for any comment on the change, and will update this post when we hear back.