Notice something new on your friends’ Facebook Profiles today? Next to your Facebook friends’ names on their Facebook profiles now features an Online Status Indicator similar to the indicator users currently see in the Facebook chat list. A green dot means the Facebook user is actively online, a grey crescent moon means the Facebook user is currently online but idle, and an empty grey circle means the Facebook user is offline or have turned off Chat. When you hover over the indicator on a Facebook profile, an icon explains what the status means. You can also click on the status indicator to initiate a chat with your Facebook friend. That chat window will also show the same online status, as it always has.

Additionally, now clicking the option to “Message” a friend who is currently online from their Profile will initiate a chat, instead of using Facebook Messages. If they don’t respond, the message will be copied to their Facebook Mesages Inbox. Clicking the “Message” button a Facebook profile of a user offline will still initiate a Facebook message.

Facebook Adds Online Status Indicator to Facebook Profiles Facebook has likely added the online status indicator to promote chat within Facebook, instead of the other more popular chatting platforms such as Yahoo!, AIM and Google’s gChat, which is very popular amongst professionals as it seems to be the least likely to be blocked or frowned upon by employers. (In fact, I have been encouraged to use Google Chat by every employer post-college to communicate with colleagues.) Inside Facebook thinks that the new status indicator on Facebook pages means “that Chat is ready to become a more central part of the service’s experience, and that users shouldn’t forget about it.” With over 500 million users on Facebook, Facebook could easily become the dominant player in instant messaging.

What do you think of Facebook’s new chat features? Will you use Facebook chat more? Or will you stick with another more popular (and sometimes more stable) instant messaging service?