The big picture: It might boast over 150 million registered accounts and be the largest digital distribution platform for PC gaming, but Steam still consists of elements that are way overdue an upgrade. Now, one of them---its aging chat system---is getting a much-needed overhaul.

An open beta version of Valve's new chat service is available right now. It features an improved, more flexible friends list that lets you keep your favorite friends, groups, and chats right at the top, making them easier to access. Your friends are also now grouped by game and party, showing what they're playing and if they're playing it together. Some titles will even provide in-game details such as maps and game types.

It's impossible not to notice the similarities between Valve's new group chat and Discord, such as being able to invite friends with links, create persistent text or voice channels within a group, and the ability to share in-line images, video, tweets, audio, and other media.

Steam said a new webRTC-based backend was rewritten from the ground up to improve security. "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."

All the features work on both the Steam client and on the web. While the upgrades are unlikely to worry Discord, the platform's many users will doubtlessly be pleased to see the chat service finally get an update. You can leave your feedback by joining the beta at the bottom of this page.