Rooms: Facebook Embraces Anonymity with New Chat App

Facebook’s new “Rooms” app is reminiscent of the Internet bulletin boards and chatrooms of old. The iOS mobile app allows users to create discussion boards on almost any topic and chat with people they may or may not know. Participants can use any username they want and they can change usernames in different rooms. Unlike traditional text-heavy, desktop-based chatrooms, the Rooms app is designed for users to post videos and images and have online discussions on-the-go.

facebook33Rooms is a departure from Facebook’s usual offerings, which often require users to use their full names, according to The New York Times.

The new app only asks for a username and an email. Unlike the creators of other anonymous apps, Facebook plans to moderate the discussion using its community guidelines. The creators of the rooms can also set the rules of the room so that every post has to be approved by the moderator.

For the first time, Facebook is also encouraging users to converse with people they might not know. Room creators can invite people via a room link or private invitations, but they cannot import a friend list from Facebook or a contact list from their phone.

“We don’t want this to be a place where you talk to friends,” Josh Miller, a leader on the Rooms project said. “There are many people out there that you didn’t go to high school with that you want to connect with.”

Facebook believes that there is a niche for Rooms in the crowded sphere of online conversation. Competitors include Yik-Yak, Whisper, Reddit and Secret. If the company successfully moderates the discussion and provides a superior mobile experience, Rooms will offer an appealing new place to chat.

Related Stories:
The Future of Anonymity on the Internet is Facebook Rooms, Wired, 10/27/14
Whisper and the Meaning of Anonymity, The Wall Street Journal, 10/28/14