Facebook recently announced Home, a way to turn mobile Android home screens into real-time news feeds. It also announced a new mobile chat feature, Chat Heads.
While Facebook is putting a lot of weight behind Chat Heads now, it wasn’t always part of Zuckerberg’s roadmap. Ellis Hamburger of The Verge dug into the launch of Chat Heads. He found that the concept was devised one year ago by two Facebook product developers who hacked it together over one long night.
FacebookChat Heads turns friends’ faces into bubbles that float on top of your mobile screen. The floating heads follow Android users throughout the entire mobile experience, in and out of their inbox, web browsing, photo taking and more. Traditionally, mobile users have sent messages through a single app, like Facebook Messenger. Now Android users no longer have to exit a chat app. Sending a private message to a close friend is always one face tap away.
“We had always talked about how apps with messaging components inside them are always the best,” Joey Flynn, one of the product designers told The Verge. “We thought that it would be awesome if every app could have a messaging component.”
That night, Flynn and Brandon Walkin played around with layouts, sticking faces in squares, rectangles and circles. The idea for Chat Heads literally took shape; Facebook liked the concept and gave the pair approval to throw resources behind it. Now Chat Heads is paving the way to a more connected, but private Facebook mobile experience.
“It was one long night, one crazy idea, and that’s how it started,” says Flynn.