We’re very excited to be releasing a new version of Chat for you next week! We're posting today because we want to give you plenty of advance notice and introduce those of you who haven't participated in the beta to some of the new features.

Some networks don’t use chat, but some who do focus their entire community around real-time chatting. For those people, chat is very important. Our goal in updating chat has been to provide a solid foundation for the future. Instead of expanding on what we built years before, we decided to rewrite the entire application from scratch. We kept most of the features that you’re used to seeing, and we added some additional features based on the feedback we’ve gotten from customers here on Creators over time. We genuinely appreciate all of your suggestions and advice as we’ve been building this new chat. It has greatly informed us about what you need and what we might want to include in future versions of Chat. We’ll go through some of the details of the new chat here so you can be prepared, and we'll have full documentation in the Help Center after the new chat is officially launched next week.

Goodbye, Flash. Hello, HTML5.

First and foremost, the new Chat has been completely rewritten for HTML5. That technology is the next generation of HTML, and it’s going to provide you with a lot more options. For example, the new Chat will work on an iPad or iPhone (as well as many other phones and devices). The old Chat was written in Flash, which made it limited in both what it could do and how it could be developed further. By rewriting it completely in HTML5, it will undoubtedly work better and be more consistent and reliable. (If you’re a power user of chat, you’ll probably notice a difference right away.)

Language and CSS support

Want to change the text used in your Chat? You'll be able to do that in the Language Editor. Want to change the look and feel or colors? If you have some CSS skills, you’ll find that Chat has unique CSS classes that will allow you to customize the headers, modules, text, etc. Even better: The new chat will respect the choices of the Language Filter. If your network needs some serious chat moderation, you can set words in the Language Filter to be displayed with bleeping asterisks.

Chat locations and options

We’ve moved Chat to the footer of your network. This will allow your members the ability to easily show and hide chat according to their preference. This footer convention has become the norm on the Internet over time, so it makes sense to make this change. Perhaps most exciting about location options is that we are supporting both a pop-out chat and a full-page chat. So, if you want to make your chat a tab on your network, you can do that. Our guess is that most people will use the pop-out version the most, and it’s probably the best option if you want to give your chat some extra real estate but be able to dismiss it when you’re not using it. The pop-out chat works for both private chats and the group, network chat.

The chat experience

If you’ve used the old chat extensively, you’ll notice that we’ve tried to keep the look somewhat similar, but we’ve tightened up a lot of important details to make the experience better. Your posts are grouped together and will appear under the same timestamp, name and avatar. You’ll see those timestamps after 1 minute of inactivity. This will probably be a real confusion-buster if you’ve left your computer for an hour or more and have come back to conversation(s). As for the text itself, the font used will be based on your network’s font choices. We think it’s important for the chat to use a standard size and color, so we’ve made this consistent wherever you see chat. Links will be preserved when you paste them in, and they will open in a new browser window, making it easy for everyone to quickly share links. Want to copy and paste parts of the chat? Since this is HTML5 and not Flash, you can now select, copy, and paste chat content.

Network vs. one-on-one chat

When you want to privately chat with someone, you can simply click on their member name (either in the member list or in network chat), and a new private chat window will open up. If you’ve had prior conversations with that person (in the same browser), they’ll show up; you can continue where you left off. If you’re the recipient of a private chat, a new pane will open up on the left when someone starts a private chat with you. At any point in time, you can pop out a private chat window and even close it out (x) if you wish. The history of the chat will stick around, so don’t feel hesitant about closing out private chats. The number of chat windows you have open will depend on the size of your browser window. If you have a 50-inch browser (how awesome would that be?) you can go absolutely insane with the private chats. If not, you might want to use the pop-out version.

Sounds and notifications

One request we had from Network Creators was to update the notification sounds. We had someone design a batch of new sounds from scratch. We hope you like them. If your members prefer to not hear sounds, they can choose to turn them off. Want some custom sounds? You can even upload your own custom sounds, which is an awesome way to add some serious character to your network. One other detail that you may like about this chat is that you’ll see a small notification badge when in private conversation panes that are minimized. It will display the number of posts you’ve received from that person since you minimized that pane.

Moderation of chat

As the NC or admin (or chat moderator), you will see an “x” next to each post. Clicking it gives you the choice of deleting or deleting/suspending a member. If you wish, you can choose to suspend someone temporarily from chat (15 minutes/1 hour/2 hours/4 hours/24 hours). These time periods have changed and are more in line with recommendations from Network Creators about how they prefer to use temporary chat suspensions. Also new to this chat is an Ignore feature, which can help your members moderate friends and enemies on their own. ;)

More people in chat

There is a limit to 500 people in your chat at one time, which is a jump up from the previous 300. If you have a network that really relies on chat, you might want to set up a separate chat page for them to take maximum advantage of space.

Dive in to the new Chat!

If you can't wait to try out the new chat, we've got some great news: You can get started right now. It's located in the Ning Labs section of your dashboard. Once you turn it on, you'll find the ways to configure it have been collected in a new Chat settings section: Settings > Features > Chat. The new chat will be turned on by default next week, although you'll still be able to fall back to the old chat if you want to ease your way into it. After a period of time, we'll deprecate the old chat, which means everyone who wants to use chat will want to make the leap to the new chat at some point. Based on the feedback we've received so far, we expect the transition to be a happy one for most Network Creators. The new chat is a big upgrade — one that moves away from the increasingly less-used Flash-based technology.

Thank you, beta participants!
We wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who joined the new chat beta group. The feedback we received was fantastic and really helped us smooth out the wrinkles. It also prodded us add a few extra features based on the requests we received. If you have comments, feel free to join the beta group and let us know what you think.

In a lot of ways, this chat project has been one of our most successful ones, and we hope to use it as a model of Ning + customer input going forward. We started by asking for input about what we were working on, which we incorporated into our plan. As soon as the new chat was up and running, we invited a small group of Network Creators to join a private beta group. After that, we quietly opened up the private beta to everyone via Ning Labs. During this process, we wanted to make sure Network Creators could always take a step back out of the beta whenever they wanted to, and we did our best to provide regular updates to the beta group. The up-shot of all of this is that it took a little longer than originally planned, but close collaboration and feedback helped us end up with a much stronger product. Most importantly, we were able to add a few bits of additional functionality along the way based on customer requests.

Tell your members about it

Want some pre-made "boilerplate" messaging for your members? Cut and paste this into a Broadcast Message and hit send. Or, use it as a jumping off point for your own message.

Good news! Today we upgraded our chat application. If you regularly use chat, you'll probably find the new chat more friendly and reliable:

• Easy to find: You'll find the new chat in your browser window's footer. Click on it and start chatting (click again to close it).
• More responsive: It should snap to attention and respond to your commands better than the old chat.
• Better technology: It's not Flash-based anymore, so it will even work on some mobile devices.
• New sounds and notifications: You can turn those off if you want. You'll also see a visual notification when new messages are posted.
• Ignore people: Choose who you want to chat with — or click the "Ignore" button. It's up to you.
• Pop it out: Need more space to chat? Pop it out into its own window.

Give the new chat a try!

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Replies to This Discussion

Great, loved the beta version and can see that the full version will be even more exciting.

Embed in right column? Our chat has NEVER been more active then it was when it was in the right column...

No plans to embed on the Main Page in the right-hand column, but you might want to set up a promo ad that points people to a standalone page. (You can put it in the main column, though; that was recently added.)

 Chat was dead on my site until I added it to the right column so it was right there in front of them. Now it's being used more and more each day. Please make the new chat moveable so we can keep it visible. Also, I noticed the new chat hides behind the skysa bar instead of being underneath like the old one.

 

Afterhours for some reason I cannot add it to the right column, it just won't take.

Chat is only available as a module in the main (largest) column. The chatbar at the bottom of your network will ensure it appears on every page. 

We don't have any plans to add chat to the skinnier columns.

Ah I wondered, as it is I put up a tab for the chat and that works wonderfully.

Can you please tell us the html for using chat on a standalone page?

Am I correct that the upgrades are happening now as my chat has been down all day? Excited for this awesome upgrade.

We don't have upgrades going on right now. I'll check into your network and see if I can determine what might be the issue. 

Thank you Eric, I assumed with the start of this discussion that was why. Thank you for picking that up right away, its still off so there much be a glitch.  

I personally am thrilled with the new chat and am looking forward to when this all takes place, I have enjoyed the Beta as have my members.

my chat is also down since morning 

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Projects that the Ning 3.0 Team is currently working on: 

Articles - a new way of organizing longer content pieces. Released 4/16.

Activity Feed Updates - options for more content in the activity feed.

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