If you are new to Microsoft Teams, you may have noticed that your messaging experience is different depending on how you started the message. This can be a bit confusing at first, but with a bit of background these differences will make sense and you will likely find yourself changing how you communicate going forward.
Did you know there are two different messaging experiences in Microsoft Teams? Direct chats can be found using the chat icon in the left navigation and allow you to message anyone or a group of people.
Channel posts on the other hand are found within the Teams icon in the left navigation and allow you to message the users who are a member of a Microsoft Team or channel within a team.
While the general functionality is similar between these two messaging paradigms there are some very important distinctions. I am going to review the principal difference between these and then identify specific feature differences.
While both direct chats and channel posts feel similar, the underlying approach for how they work couldn’t be more different. You should view direct chats very much like text messages on your phone. When you send a message you decide who you are sending it to before you send the message and once you send it there is no way to get it back. This is because direct chats are stored in your personal mailbox within Microsoft Exchange. In addition, any files you share are uploaded to your personal OneDrive and shared with the users who are currently in your direct chat. This is similar to other tools and apps you might add to a direct chat. The diagram below is intended to help you visualize how this works.
Even though you are interacting with Teams to send direct chat messages the data created is stored in the personal repositories for the users who are in the direct chat. On the other hand, channel posts are all in the context of a Team that has its storage and users are just interacting with the shared resources.
This fundamental difference is the main reason that these two features work a bit differently. Below I am going to go through some specific feature differences.
It is often useful to add context to a discussion, so users know what the purpose is. Direct chat and channel messages support providing this information to users, but in very different ways.
When you create a chat with more than one person, it is possible to name the group chat so you have a specific “topic” for discussion. It is also possible to create multiple chats with the same users with different names. This chat is shared by all people in the chat and any of them can change the name.
Tip: If you are looking to create multiple group chats with different names you just need to click to expand the options when creating the chat. Then you can add a group name which will force a new group chat.
All channel posts are within a team and a channel which both have a name and description. These are intended to help users understand the type of messages they should expect to find within that channel. In this way, channel posts are topic-based by default. For example, any discussions in `Marketing->Blogs` should be related to blogs that the marketing team is working on.
It is important to understand who has access to messages and how you can give other users access.
It is possible to add and remove users from a group chat. When adding a user, you can select what happens with historical chat messages.
When you remove a user, they will retain access to all historical chats that they can see at the time they were removed.
Individual users can choose to leave a group chat as well. Doing this will stop that user from receiving further messages unless they're added back.
The basic channel within a team inherits access from the team. This means when you add a new member or owner to the team, you have also given them access to all the other resources of the team including channel posts. If you have created any private channels, those have unique access settings and would need to be updated as well. But the key here is that when you grant someone access they get access to all the other resources (SharePoint Site, Stream Channels, Power BI Workspace, etc.).
Likewise, if you remove someone’s access they will no longer have access to any of the content within the team/channel.
Both direct chat and channel posts support attaching files. However, where these files are stored is very different.
When you attach a file to a chat, you are uploading that file to your OneDrive and then sharing that file with the other people in the chat. This can create unexpected side-effects if you don’t understand how this works:
Attachments included in channel messages are stored in the SharePoint site associated with the Team. This means everyone has access and the data will live as long as the Team is around.
As mentioned previously, messages are stored differently for direct chats vs. channel posts.
All chat messages are stored in your personal Exchange mailbox. This means chat messages will follow your personal mailbox.
Channel posts are stored in the Exchange mailbox for the Team and not in any user’s mailbox. This means channel posts will live on past when any individual users’ mailboxes are removed.
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