Blizzard Entertainment announced the new social features that are now available in the beta version of the Blizzard Battle.net desktop app. The one that is likely going to get the most attention is the ability to appear offline.
The Appear Offline feature allows you to set your status to show you as “offline” to your Battle friends while remaining connected to Battle.net. You can launch the app and game away without distraction. That being said, it’s not exactly a “cloak of invisibility”:
Appearing offline will show you as offline to everyone in your Blizzard friends list. Once you have joined a game, the experience of appearing offline might be slightly different depending on which game you are playing. In the case of World of Warcraft, your guildmates will see your character come online and enter WoW’s in-game chat channels, and anyone who has you as a character-level friend will see you online on their friends list. Everyone outside of the same game as you will not see you online or playing any games.
Based on that description, it looks like players won’t be able to use the Appear Offline feature to avoid dealing with guild drama. That feature also won’t help a player to avoid a guildmate who has made them uncomfortable or who has been harassing them.
Another new change allows a player to send a message to a friend who is offline (or appears to be offline). Players who are using the Appear Offline feature can send and receive messages in the app. Blizzard points out that this allows players to decide when they want to respond to those messages. This is a step in the right direction, but it would also enable a mean person to quietly harass someone.
In addition, the beta Battle.net desktop app has a new Social Tab for managing all your various social interactions. Blizzard Groups is a new way for you to connect with your friends and plan your next mission.
Players can create and join Groups based on their common interests. Each Group can have multiple text and voice chat channels, and Group administrators will have tools to manage memberships, invites, and more. To me, this sounds like Blizzard is competing with Skype, Discord, and other similar things people currently use to talk to their friends in-game.