Facebook has announced the launch of new iOS app that encourages users to interact anonymously in a way that’s reminiscent of late 90’s – early 2000’s chat rooms.
The company concedes that’s where the inspiration for the app came from, stating in the announcement that ‘Rooms’ was “inspired by both the ethos of these early web communities and the capabilities of modern smartphones.”
Rooms works by allowing users to create their own identities, with no link to any social media profile, and create a message board (Room) focused on a specific topic. Other users can then join and contribute to the message board by sharing text, photos, videos, or gifs.
Rooms can be visually customized in a similar way to how Reddit’s sub-reddits are customized. You can change text and icons on like buttons, add your own cover photo, change layout colours, create stickied posts, customize admin permissions, and even configure whether or not people can link to your room on the web.
Once you create a room you can send out an invitation to join it using QR codes that can be shared on Twitter, Facebook, SMS, or email. If you see an invitation for a room that you want to join, just take a screenshot with your phone and the Rooms app will open it into a new board.
Here’s an example of what that looks like:
Download the ROOMS app on iOS then screenshot this QR code to access my room. pic.twitter.com/lek8Q7MVoB
— Robert Bowling (@fourzerotwo) October 24, 2014
Rooms is designed to be more of a place to spontaneously meet up with people you don’t know in person and chat about your favorite topics. Rooms is definitely not designed for organizing chats with groups of Facebook friends, or anything like that.
Therein lies a challenge when it comes to the growth and adoption of Rooms. The invite-only system means discussion boards will have to spread by word of mouth. That may make it difficult to find rooms to join, but I could imagine the community eventually creating their own workaround for that.
For example, searchable hashtags could be developed that would help people find rooms to join. If you want to find rooms of people chatting about SEO, you could search for #roomsSEO on Twitter or Instagram. Of course that’s just an idea off the top of my head, not a solution that actually exists yet.
The invite-only system could also end up being a good thing though, helping to weed out the noise and keep out those who don’t want to constructively contribute to the conversation.
If you want to check Rooms out for yourself and what the discussions are like so far, head over to the App Store to download it for iPhone.