Available now in the Steam client beta, Steam Chat offers the ability to chat with other users on Steam with either group or individual messaging - via both text and voice - as well offering a host of improvements to the client's friends list. New features include a modernized chat experience, a more flexible friend list, group chats built for gaming, and more. Favored souls can be dragged to the top of the list where they will be added to your Favorites list, and it looks like voice or group chats can be made anytime.
If you are already enrolled in the beta releases, you may have to restart your client to get the new chat features. Soon, the AOL-esque chat of yore will be gone, replaced by the slick, fancy Discord chat of the present. You have the in-line media, the ability to create multiple text or voice channels in each group, and the ability to invite friends to a group with a link.it's nearly like someone at Valve opened Discord and decided to make the UI look more like Steams. It only takes one click to create, join, or leave a channel.
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A preview of the Steam Chat platform. Other parts of the client have received some visual upgrades as well, including the in-game overlay, but the main brunt of the update is focused on the chat system. No bones about it: Steam's new persistent group chats are basically Discord. As a result, voice chat uses high-quality Opus encoding, voice traffic is encrypted, and all traffic is sent through Steam servers rather than directly to peers. This keeps your IP address private, which masks your physical location and also prevents network attacks. Valve is collecting feedback via this section of its forums. The new Steam Chat is also available through your web browser.