Valve has opened its Steam Community features for public testing. Steam users can get on board by restarting the client, going into the Settings menu and using the "Beta participation" bit on the Account panel to join in the Community beta.
Steam Community shifts Valve's content delivery network into the realms of social networking, giving you a unique ID, a friends list, groups, text and voice chat, event scheduling and in-depth statistics. Your Steam Community page is accessible either in the Steam client or through a web-browser.
Many of the features sound a bit like those in Xbox Live - you can access the Community elements in-game by pressing Shift-Tab to bring up an overlay, allowing you to send invitations to people on your friends list, for example. You can also personalise how people see you with a photo or avatar, biographical details and so on.
And although some of it is still being developed, features like in-depth statistics are likely to prove popular. Even at its most basic, it's interesting to note that I fought off jetlag by playing Doom 3 for 1.2 hours last night, or that I spent 20 minutes playing Bookworm Adventures in an airport. REGURGITATE!
Valve reckons it all adds up to "the largest extension to the Steam platform since its first commercial release in March 2004". If you've never tried Steam and fancy a go, it's at www.steampowered.com.