In a surprise reveal, Valve has pushed out a new Steam beta that completely overhauls Steam chat system, adding brand new features like in-line media viewing, better group chats, and more. Other parts of the client have received some visual upgrades as well, including the in-game overlay, but the main brunt of the update is focused on the chat system.
Starting things off, there is now a favorites tab on top of the friends list, where users can pin their friends and group chats for easy access. Rich presence has arrived as well, where users will now display their current in-game status such as the game mode or if they are currently matchmaking. This feature can be used by developers to implement custom details to be shown off by those playing their games.
As mentioned before, the chat window will now expand and show any media that is posted on it without needing to open the link, applying to videos, images, gifs, tweets, and more. Uploading images straight to the chat to share is also supported.
Also, groups can now have their own text and voice channels, à la discord, even letting users generate invite links that other users can just click to join. These groups can be made permanent by saving them with a custom name and thumbnail.
Moreover, Valve has paid close attention to voice quality and security of the new systems, saying:
Steam voice chat was rewritten from the ground up with a new WebRTC-based backend. As a result, voice chat uses high quality Opus encoding, voice traffic is encrypted, and all traffic is sent through Steam servers rather than directly to peers. This keeps your IP address private, which masks your physical location and also prevents network attacks.
Valve has built a fancy new page that describes all the new features, which can be found here. As the new overhaul is only available in the client to Steam beta users, interested parties will need to go to the client's Settings and opt into the Steam Beta Update in the Accounts tab.
Valve has also urged beta users to report any bugs they find, over here.