Teams Federated Chat Enables Sending Emojis to Teams Users in Other 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). This feature is also called Teams federated chat. Microsoft says that the upgrade started to roll out in early November and will be complete worldwide 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.
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.
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.
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.
External Access Settings
By default, Teams federated chat is enabled for all tenants. In other words, you can connect and chat with anyone in any other Microsoft 365 tenants, if they use Teams. This won’t suit some organizations, and if you want to restrict the ability for people to use federated chat, you can do so by defining an allow list of domains in the External access settings for the organization. These settings also include connections to Teams consumer users.
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