Public chats and chat improvements
We now have public chats in Skype. Yay.
What are they? In short, you could say that public chats are text chats that anyone can create, host and join. They’re similar to the current private text chats and indeed, share large parts of the interface, but what public chats offer are better moderation controls, letting anyone join without being “added” and letting you have a link to a chat straight on your webpage, e-mail or any other place.
There’s now a public chat for this blog too. Just see in the right sidebar. Feel free to join.
Note that public chats are currently only available in Skype 3.0 Beta for Windows. Support for other platforms is coming. You cannot join public chats with older versions of Skype for Windows.
The public chat system is pretty versatile. You can have chats with wildly different policies. You can have open watercooler chats where anyone can come and talk, or you can have pressconference-style chats with lots of listeners but few talkers, or entirely closed chats where you will approve each joiner before they can even read the messages or topic. You can remove messages and remove unwanted folks from chats.
The detailed instructions for using public chats would be far too long to type here, but we have handy user guides to take you through all that. Go to our [communities page](http://www.skype.com/share/communities.html) where you will find guides for how to [create](http://www.skype.com/help/guides/publicchat_create.html), [manage](http://www.skype.com/help/guides/publicchat_manage.html) and [promote](http://www.skype.com/help/guides/publicchat_promote.html) your chat. You’ll also find the Skypecasts guides on that same page. Here are just a few notes about why public chats are interesting and what has changed in the current, private chat feature.
]]>### Chat picture
In addition to a topic, you can now have a chat picture. It’s kind of small in the current interface, so it will be a graphic exercise to find a picture that displays clearly in the small space that it can currently have. We are looking at different ways to show the picture in a bigger “chat profile” type of control, so stay tuned for that.
Public chats are only available in Skype 3.0 Beta for Windows, so people from other platforms or older versions won’t be able to join them. To make things a bit more fuzzy and fun at the same time, you can add a picture to the private chats that work across platforms and with older Skype versions, but only Skypers using Skype 3.0 or newer will see the picture. So if you see this message…
… but not the picture itself, you’re on a version of Skype that doesn’t support chat pictures.
### Improved chat history management
Chat history has been an area of concern for quite a while and this has improved a lot in Skype 3.0. It used to be so that when you wanted to see the full history or a group chat, or the full history of your private Skype chats with someone to be loaded in a separate browser window, Skype and your computer were pretty much frozen for the time it took to generate the history, that may have been quite a while if the chat went back for a long time.
In Skype 3.0, there is no more the separate browser window for private chat history (browser loading a huge HTML file was often what caused the freezing). Rather, the histories of group chats, public chats and private 1:1 chats are all expanded into the relevant chat window when you click “Click to see the recent messages in this chat” or “Click to see full chat history”. Also, the history expansion is gradual for 1:1 chats, so that if you click the link once, only the most recent part of the history is loaded, which is often exactly what you need. If you want to go further back in history, click the history loading link again to load the full history.
### Non-stop chatting
One thing that distinguishes Skype public chats from other similar systems like IRC or online talkers or any other similar systems is that you always get the full chat history, even if you’re not permanently connected. With other systems, you typically only see chatting that happens while you’re connected. In Skype chat, everyone sees the full picture. This is ideal for things like continuous business team or community chats where you check in and out to learn what’s been happening while you were gone.
So there you have it. We hope you find public chats useful and run them on your site, blog or any other place. Let us know what you think and what we can improve. To get started, click “Start Public Chat” in Tools menu in Skype 3.0 beta.
### A bit of historic trivia
I’m really happy to see that Public Chats are finally going out with Skype 3.0. This is a Skype feature that’s been in the making with varying intensity for over two years. I myself was a member of the initial team tasked in 2004 to kick the tires of the concept and give some thought about whether this thing might be something interesting. And today represents the culmination of a long and interesting journey that will only get more fun as we finally get to put this baby for to the world to play with.
Here are some fun vintage early concept wireframes and graphic designs from that early period when dinosaurs still walked the earth. Perhaps you can relate these to some old Skype versions if you happened to use them, but in any case, you can see that while the graphic style has changed a lot, we’re not that far off with the basic concepts and the model.