Google has added a new chat feature to Google+. When I opened up the service this morning, I was greeted with a message that said:
If you click that “learn more” link, Google says, “Google Chat makes it easy to chat with people you have relationships with. In Google+, you can chat with anyone in your Circles who also has added you to their Circles. And, when you're not using Google Plus, you'll still be able to chat with them using Google products including, Gmail, the Google Talk client, iGoogle, Orkut and 3rd party apps.”
Previously, you could only chat with people if you knew their email address, so this opens up a whole new line of instant communication, and eliminates one of Facebook’s advantages in terms of features.
Rather than displaying all of your contacts in a single chat list, it will show you contacts from your most recent conversations that are online. You can also use the search box to find the others.
Chat is obviously one of the most social features of any product online. It’s direct, instant conversation. I don’t know how crucial it is to the success of Google+, but it certainly can’t hurt. I know Facebook chat gets used quite a bit.
Google needs to integrate the group messaging of the Google+ mobile app here as well. As it stands right now, I have an ongoing discussion going among myself and a few other people via the messaging feature, but no way to access that conversation from the web interface (or if I do, it’s extremely hidden).
It’s interesting that Google+ launched with video chat (hangouts) ahead of text chat, but now it has both, and should be better for it. By the way, you can video chat from the chat feature itself as well.