Facebook has introduced ‘Do not disturb’ signs for its chat service – a way for users to tell friends what they’re up to while they’re away from the keyboard.
The ‘Sidebar status’ updates are reminiscent of ‘away messages’ used on Nineties and Noughties chat services such as AIM and ICQ – and have provoked a wave of nostalgia.
Users can leave messages saying, for instance, ‘Watching the football,’ or ‘Making chicken for dinner,’ so that friends know what you are up to – and know you’re not available for chat.
The messages are temporary – they don’t show up in News Feed, and won’t appear in Timeline on your profile – and self-delete after 12 hours.
Facebook also offers picture icons to show friends what you are doing.
As with any Facebook message, users can set privacy as they wish – so they can block specific users from seeing what they are doing, handy if you don’t want your boss to know you’re watching football while working from home.
The new service is currently under test in Australia and Taiwan, in line with Facebook’s standard policy of testing services in a small number of territories shortly before worldwide roll-out.
A Facebook spokesperson, Sue Young, said, ‘People were having a difficult time staying in touch with their friends and seeing what they’re doing on a daily basis.
‘The idea behind the sidebar status, she said, is that small things would make people feel connected in a big way.
‘Now when I visit the sidebar, I can get an instant pulse of what all my friends are doing.