Native Federated Chat Now Rolling Out for Microsoft Teams

An Opportunity to Send Emojis to Teams Users in Other Office 365 Tenants

Office 365 Notification MC194603 published on 1 November brings the news that Native Federation for 1:1 chats between Microsoft Teams users in different Office 365 tenants is now rolling out (roadmap item 52394). Microsoft says that the upgrade started to roll out in early November and will be complete worlwide by early December. The new chat experience showed up in my tenant this week.

Enabling External Access for Teams

I covered the topic of Teams external access for federated chats in March. The mechanics of enabling external access for a tenant and how users search to find a user in another tenant remain the same. What’s different is that you can now communicate with external users and “enjoy a richer Teams messaging experience.” Translated into English, this means that you can include better formatting (you can use the compose box to format text in a message), emojis, stickers, GIFs, and @mentions in your chat.

You might wonder why @mentions are a good thing to have in a 1:1 chat. My conclusion is that they’re there to force a chat to appear when the Activity Feed is filtered for @mentions, which might give a message some degree of extra priority.

TeamsOnly is the Key

Microsoft says that the native chat experience for external users is turned on for all Office 365 tenants. However, native federated chat is only available when both accounts have their Teams upgrade policy set to “TeamsOnly.” In other words, they’ve made the move from Skype for Business Online and now use Teams exclusively for chat and meetings. If you look at external people in your chat list (Figure 1), you’ll see a Skype logo alongside the poor unfortunates who don’t yet enjoy rich federation.

External users in a Teams chat list
Figure 1: External users in a Teams chat list

To discover if a Skype-marked contacts is able to use rich federated chat, select them and look at the bottom of the message list. If you see the banner shown in Figure 2, you can lock the existing conversation and start a new (rich) chat.

External contact is eligible for rich federated chat
Figure 2: External contact is eligible for rich federated chat

A different, less intrusive banner appears on the top of rich chats. Teams won’t complain if you want to continue using plain text messages with external recipients as before, but now that you’ve got rich formatting to express your thoughts, it seems bad not to use it.

Rich Chat

Those migrating from Skype for Business Online are used to rich messages, so introducing rich formatting in federated communications is part of the process of moving organizations off Skype for Business Online to Teams. If you use the full compose box (click the A with a pencil icon – the left-most icon under the compose box) you get the full benefit of a competent text editor with a reasonable collection of formatting options. It’s not Word, but it’s more than good enough (Figure 3) to get your point across.

The full rich compose experience for a Teams federated chat
Figure 3: The full rich compose experience for a Teams federated chat

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