July 25, 2018 // 11:38 a.m.
Software distribution giant Valve has announced a major upgrade to the built-in chat functionality in Steam, available on both the web-based and native client variants of the tool.
Designed to offer both voice and text chat functionality, and to keep users within the Steam ecosystem rather than having them defect to third-party chat clients like the popular Discord, the revamped Steam Chat comes with a raft of improvements. Chief among these is a switch to WebRTC, an open standard for web-based real-time communication which brings the high-quality Opus codec, encryption, and dedicated server support - a far cry from the peer-to-peer system Steam had previously employed.
Previously available only to those using the Steam Beta client, the new chat function will come as a surprise to anyone who had previously been making do with the old system: The new friend's list includes the ability to add favourites, automatic grouping of friends by game with detailed status reports on what part of the game they are currently in, and manual group chats which persist post-game and post-client-restart.
For those who primarily use the text-based chat system, new improvements include full multimedia support with inline video, pictures, social media embedding, and more, as well as drag-and-drop addition of new members to existing groups. Groups can now also have 'channel' sub-categories, while invitations can be sent via email - which ties in nicely to the fact that the new chat system works in-browser, allowing users to communicate even from systems which do not have the native Steam client installed.
The new chat system is live now, with more information available on the official website.