Lync Online is a helpful introduction to the world of Lync. It’s handy for a lower-cost communications solution when smaller offices need on fast. However, it has painful limitations – no external VoIP calls (yet), limitations to online meetings, and no Persistent Chat.

Some of these features are on the path to inclusion. Some, as far as I can tell, are not. Why? Why would Microsoft leave out something as useful as Persistent Chat for Lync Online users?Where's Persistent Chat?

Let’s see if we can’t figure out some reasons. Join me, as I attempt to read the mind of Microsoft!

Reason Lync Online Doesn’t Have Persistent Chat #1: Priorities.

It’s taking Microsoft months to build in the functionality necessary to bring external VoIP calls to Lync Online users. I understand why that’s first-priority – it should be – but it means adding in a Persistent Chat server farm will take that much longer. If that is what they plan to do.

Reason #2: Structural Changes Needed to Lync Online.

Lync Online was not designed to incorporate Persistent Chat. Lync 2013 was. It is possible to use Lync 2013 with Office 365, but Persistent Chat depends on a backend server instance to store its chat rooms. To add this to Lync Online will require backend system changes. Nothing Microsoft can’t do, they just…haven’t.

Reason #3: Persistent Chat Rooms Need Grouping to Work.

The purpose of Persistent Chat is for communication with a group of people over time, in one location. Lync online accounts have no such guarantee.

Lync Online users are account-based, whereas Persistent Chat servers are domain-based. In order to adapt Persistent Chat’s architecture for cloud use, you’d have to change it so chat rooms would be invite-only or dedicated to account groups. Same issue as #2, just from a user focus.

Reason #4: Yammer.Yammer Icon

Yammer is, according to its website, “a private social network that helps employees collaborate across departments, locations and business apps.”

I’m already sensing a parallel here.

In July, Microsoft – which owns Yammer – moved its operations under Office 365. I’ve seen several comments online which agree with my impression of this move: Yammer is Lync Online’s Persistent Chat.

It’s not a feature-for-feature parallel. Groups instead of chat rooms. A Twitter-like conversation feed. Notes and documents shared. But it’s close.

One big drawback to using Yammer in place of Persistent Chat, is that Yammer is so “open” that people may use it more as a social chatting platform than a business collaboration tool. Since Persistent Chat divides conversations by Chat Room, keeping them on-topic is much easier.

MindLink has an excellent article (with charts!) illustrating the differences between Yammer, Persistent Chat and SharePoint: SharePoint, Yammer, Lync & Persistent Chat – How does it all fit together?

Do We Want Persistent Chat in Lync Online? Or Should We Wait and See?

Personally, I think #4 is the main reason why we don’t see Persistent Chat for Lync Online users yet. Yammer is not a BAD option…but it’s not Persistent Chat.

This feels like a bit of a misstep by Microsoft. Like they’re trying to “cram social” into chat too, instead of using a pre-existing solutions. Which is already a social option, really.

As we wrap up 2014 and head into 2015, expect more Lync-related announcements. A new version of Exchange and SharePoint are due next year…possibly a new version of Lync Server too. With that should come Office 365 updates. We’ll see.

Do you use Yammer with Lync Online? If so, please send me your experience! Love to examine the chat dynamics further.

Why Doesn’t Lync Online Include Persistent Chat? 4 Reasons
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