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The latest Steam Beta Client is out with Valve's revamped chat interface, along with some minor UI work as well.

Here's how the new interface and settings look, which is quite a lot cleaner and it does certainly look a lot more modern that's for sure. Steam's chat system was probably one of the oldest parts of Steam, so it's good to see a renewed focus on improving it.

The new favourites section is interesting, giving you a section to plonk people in you regularly chat with.

And here's how glorious the actual chat is, so I can send you all hilarious memes:

They updated the Group Chat feature as well, to be a lot more like Discord. You can add additional text and voice channels to them, including the rich image stuff like shown above. Group Chats can be given a name and avatar to save them as well, to pick it back up later.

Another benefit, is that it seems to finally keep some chat history too. I've closed and re-opened multiple chats, closed Steam itself and I still see what has been said.

There's additional handy features have been added too, like right clicking a game in your friends list and being able to go right to the store page:

However, it looks like this update has broken group chat for Steam Groups (like our Steam Group), as Steam will complain it can't find Steam running (as amusing as that is). In the shot below you will see that bug in action, plus the slightly different UI in the top right and bottom right.

To get around that issue, you can join the Group Chat from the Steam website, which then saves it into your Group Chat section of your friends list. I'm sure they will solve that weird issue soon. So the actual Group Chat interface now looks like this (very Discord-like):

You can join our very own GamingOnLinux Group Chat using this link, if you're bothered about it…

Another nice thing about the update, is that chats are finally tabbed together. You don't have many windows just for chat, all nicely under one roof now. To me, that's much nicer.

They've also completely rewritten voice chat from within Steam as well, with a WebRTC-based backend. It uses Opus encoding, encryption and the voice chat now goes through Steam directly, instead of being peer 2 peer. This should hopefully fix the issues where you couldn't connect to your friends to voice chat. It also now only requires a single click to voice chat with someone, although, that feature only works if your friend is also in the Steam Client Beta.

In addition, a feature I'm very happy about, is the new invisible mode. This allows you to show as offline, but still actually act is if you're online. For someone with as many people on their list as me from various tournaments and so in, it's a lot less hassle.

All of this works in the webstore too, not just the client. There's more I've likely missed, so do see the full details on their special update page here.

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56 comments
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nox 15 June 2018 at 11:20 pm UTC
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tuubi
Doc Angelo
devnullIndeed. p2p should always be an option though. The issues with voice and trading are signaling, requiring an active connection to steam is silly.

You can't have p2p without giving away your IP to those chatting with you.
That's okay though if you trust the people you chat with. So I guess it could work as an option.
Yes, and then the whole point of protecting the users IP is gone. It's easy to imagine someone turning on p2p, forgetting about it, accepting an invite from someone, accepting or joining a call...
tuubi 16 June 2018 at 6:23 am UTC
nox
tuubi
Doc Angelo
devnullIndeed. p2p should always be an option though. The issues with voice and trading are signaling, requiring an active connection to steam is silly.

You can't have p2p without giving away your IP to those chatting with you.
That's okay though if you trust the people you chat with. So I guess it could work as an option.
Yes, and then the whole point of protecting the users IP is gone. It's easy to imagine someone turning on p2p, forgetting about it, accepting an invite from someone, accepting or joining a call...
That particular problem would be one of UI design. The user should not be allowed to "forget about" something important. But Valve isn't likely to consider this worth their time, so this is getting a bit academic.
devnull 17 June 2018 at 1:27 am UTC
nox
tuubi
Doc Angelo
devnullIndeed. p2p should always be an option though. The issues with voice and trading are signaling, requiring an active connection to steam is silly.

You can't have p2p without giving away your IP to those chatting with you.
That's okay though if you trust the people you chat with. So I guess it could work as an option.
Yes, and then the whole point of protecting the users IP is gone. It's easy to imagine someone turning on p2p, forgetting about it, accepting an invite from someone, accepting or joining a call...

There are different levels of risk people have to decide either applies to them or not, and when. If I'm at a conference for example, p2p might make more sense for the simple case the network is typically unreliable. On the other hand becoming a busy node in such a network comes with costs and their own risks (battery for example).

Now imagine sitting in class, a train, plane, etc. There's really no reason you'd want nor need an intermediate if you're talking to a friend.

In both cases the key is _you've_ decided the risk. Pre Microsoft buying Skype, this is one area it absolutely excelled at, sometimes to the distain of network admins as it had the habbit of finding internal paths (say... via vpns between offices). On the other hand you could have an entire office all peering locally without using any external network. Add in conference calls and you quickly see the benifits.

The issues with privacy are fairly easy to mitigate. Nodes in Skype didn't become supernodes unless configured and only stable hosts became relays. Since people tend to roam a lot (say between the office and home), they didn't qualify as either role. Likewise desktops didn't become external relays since they were typically firewalled.

That worked until he encryption was broken and trust in Skype overall became an issue. Skype is afterall completely proprietary.

Steam has the chance to make this right again if they put aside their insatiable thurst for data mining. Be secure and distributed from the start. The Steam client already has the plumbing through things like in home streaming. Something I'm sure Microsoft is well aware of, Google certainly is.

We're in quite a different world where home users have access to some serious bandwidth and storage. If Steam / Valve decided to pay users (in BTC or cash), it would change the landscape of many existing technologies.
nox 17 June 2018 at 11:47 am UTC
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I'll always lean towards giving users choice, but in this case I don't see how giving users the choice would have helped anyone.
Thing is, valve likely wants to make sure that they aren't the reason why IP addresses are being leaked, regardless of how dumb users are. If people want p2p voice chat there are many other alternatives out there that would resolve that, which would give you the choice and take potential blame away from valve.
tuubi 17 June 2018 at 11:58 am UTC
noxThing is, valve likely wants to make sure that they aren't the reason why IP addresses are being leaked, regardless of how dumb users are.
Oh yes, the Apple / lowest common denominator school of software design: Every user is an idiot, and if they aren't, they probably didn't want to do anything "advanced" anyway.

The hypothetical problem you describe could be solved with a single disclaimer and a safe default.
devnull 18 June 2018 at 1:12 am UTC
noxI'll always lean towards giving users choice, but in this case I don't see how giving users the choice would have helped anyone.
Thing is, valve likely wants to make sure that they aren't the reason why IP addresses are being leaked, regardless of how dumb users are. If people want p2p voice chat there are many other alternatives out there that would resolve that, which would give you the choice and take potential blame away from valve.

Comes down to the language, absolutely. Some do a better job conveying the implications then others, PGP and OTR for example. Windows Networking even has at least the concept of zones to base security descsions on (Home Network, Office, Public, etc).

It's impossible for Valve to protect users IPs. The attacks on Steam's own browser make that a dubious claim at best. What should happen is Valve becomes upfront with communicating what an action does. I'd go so far as to say the network functions within steam present some kind of visual activity feedback (aka spinning icon and progress bar in a browser).

This is not surprisingly the complete opposite of where browsers have gone. You click on a link and wonder what the fuck your browser is doing! (Vivaldi fwiw does at least show basic network use). Escape doesn't even stop them any more.

Saying Friends is Offline or Hidden, while still remaining connected is no different then a browser quietly running background requests while showing a completely rendered page. It's deceptive.

In the case of P2P it could also be an option to limit whom you connect to.
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