We reported earlier this week about the discovery of "group strings" in a recent update to Blizzard's Battle.net client, suggesting that new features including Discord-like groups and an option to appear offline might soon be added to the client. Very soon, as it turns out—the features are now live in a beta version of the software that's available to everyone.
The beta client includes a new Social Tab, "your one-stop-shop for managing all your various social interactions," Blizzard Groups that support multiple text and voice chat channels, user profiles with avatars, descriptions, and social media links, and yes, the long-awaited, oft-demanded "Appear Offline" option.
"Appear offline allows you to set your status to show you as “offline” to your Blizzard friends while remaining connected to Battle.net. This means you can launch the app and game away without distraction," Blizzard wrote.
"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."
Offline messaging will also be supported: Messages sent to offline users will be received the next time they connect, and anyone faking an offline status will be able to send and receive messages as well.
To try out the new features, just fire up the Battle.net client, enter the settings menu (it's under the Blizzard drop-down), then select "beta" and click the "Switch to Beta" button. The beta client will download and install, and after a restart you're set—and if it doesn't go well for some reason, you can switch back to the standard client by following the same process.