One of the centrepieces of Facebook's new interface are "chat heads," Facebook's vision for the way that we should do messaging. Sounds fun! But what are they, exactly? And will they really change how we communicate?
As the Zuck said during this evening's press conference, phones are all about communication, so it makes sense that Facebook's vision for a social phone centres around a smart new way to communicate. Facebook has already been working in this space with its Messenger app, which allows you integrate your Facebook messages and SMS into a single app. Chat heads are a more evolved version of that vision.
This is central to Facebook's whole vision for home. No apps. Chat heads are a little piece of your phone's UI, much like the entire Facebook Home experience. They pop up when you need them and stay out of the way when you don't. You don't need to navigate to a separate screen or use an app to do your messaging any more.
That little notification dot you're used to on your phone's apps will now turn into a fingertip-sized that reveals revealing part of a contact's profile photo. When you tap a chat head, it opens up to a more traditional conversation window. When you're done reading and chatting, it collapses down to a dot again.
When the dots collapse down, you can move them where ever you want on your screen — much the way you can move a chat window wherever you want it on you computer screen. You can also group your chats together and drag them en masse. When you're done with a specific conversation, a simple throwaway gesture gets rid of it.
Text messaging, mobile chat, and email have created a revolution in communication whereby we basically never have to actually talk on the phone. But you don't need to look much farther than the iMessage mess to realise it's an unfinished revolution. It's not as easy and seamless as it could be. Facebook Home's chat heads could be the solution to this problem.