When it was first announced that Hotmail would offer Facebook chat access from within the inbox, it was only available to six different regions.This week the Hotmail team has expanded the feature to reach customers worldwide.
Dick Craddock, Group Program Manager for Windows Live Hotmail, fully admits that Gmail beat them to bringing chat to the inbox, but Hotmail hopes to earn some kudos back by offering the integration of Facebook chat as well.
If you're a Hotmail user and you want to try it out, first connect your Facebook account to Windows Live and confirm that the “Chat with my Facebook friends in Messenger” box is checked. Once the two accounts have been linked you can start a chat from Hotmail by clicking on the name of a Facebook contact:
Says Hotmail's official announcement:
Since announcing the availability of Facebook chat in Messenger worldwide two weeks ago, nearly 2.5 million more people connected their Facebook accounts to Windows Live, bringing the total to over 20 million customers. And with three out of four Hotmail customers using Facebook, we expect that many more people will want to take advantage of this feature, now that it’s available from your Hotmail inbox.
Google's Soft Spots
It's a fairly clever move on Hotmail's part. Consider the alleged battle between Google and Facebook, which was most recently highlighted when the social network nabbed the Internet giant's place as the most-visited website in the United States.
Spokespersons from both sides of the fence will tell you that there's no real competition here, as the companies are inherently different. These claims haven't quelled speculation in the slightest, of course, and we would personally be scratching our heads in wonder if the Facebook chat functionality suddenly appeared in Gmail.
Hotmail's addition further supports the idea that Google might want to watch its back when it comes to Zuck's kingdom, as well as the social media movement as a whole (something Google seems continually unable to latch onto).
At the same time, it's also a feature that could bring some life back to both Hotmail and Messenger if it's successful. If Facebook chat within Hotmail is something you plan on trying, let us know in the comments below how it turns out, and whether or not you think it has a lot of pull.