Facebook Rooms: A Revival of Chat Rooms?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and remember AOL chat rooms. I was probably only in middle school when this anonymous form of communication was at it’s peak; but somehow I was still a part of this online social space. This prime example of Web 1.0 was used to connect people with similar interests, and overall just a new way for people to waste time online. Flash forward about 10 years, just like choker necklaces, this trend is making a comeback.

The idea of the chat room is being revived through Facebook Creative Lab’s new app called Rooms. This app was said to be inspired by the early web communities, such as AOL chat rooms, but merged with new smartphone technology. The official Room’s blog describes the new app as a way to “let you create places for the things you’re into, and invite others who are into them too.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-Vc4mfH-rk

What is Rooms?

Rooms is essentially a new way for users to create places for like-minded individuals to talk about certain subjects and invite others to join. Right now, the full features of Rooms are only accessible by mobile and require users to screen shot an invitation page to acquire a QR code and join a new room.

Rooms is a place for users to form their own communities. Each room is started by a leader who sees a gap in the current subjects, and this creator is responsible for making a lot of decisions about how the room will run. Creators design a color scheme for the room, customize member permissions, and choose a emoji for the like button; it’s the little things. In order to make the app more child safe, something that AIM chat rooms didn’t do, the preferences can be adjusted to block any users under 18. If you are still wary about having little control over the conversation you can opt to approve every comment.

This idea also follows the trend of everything else Facebook has done. At its core, Rooms is just another way for users to post photos and text in a social context. This is very similar to both Facebook, and Facebook-owned Instagram.

image by appleinsider.com
image by appleinsider.com

Somewhat Anonymous

This app allows you to explore and express all your different interests, without having to let anyone know what you’re up to. Each different room allows you to pick a nickname, so you can use the same one for everything or create different pseudonyms for different subjects. Rooms claims this allows you to “celebrate the sides of yourself that you don’t always show to your friends.”

Facebook’s Distant Relative

While this app was created in Facebook’s Creative Lab, it actually has no apparent connection with the social giant itself. Rooms never asks you to log in with Facebook, and shows no signs of being linked to your personal profile. I think this is one of the appeals of this app. Every day you have to “sign in with Facebook” to gain access to different services and contests. This always brings about the fear that Facebook will post information on your behalf that you do not want to share with friends.

The Future

You might wonder, where is there room for growth in Rooms? Many have taken to Instagram to share and find new participants for their rooms. You can search #Rooms on Instagram for public invitations and find ones for specialized rooms such as Cycling and Street Art.

However, not long after the launch of Rooms, it was already facing controversy. Another app named Room, with the same name and features, claimed the social media giant stole their intellectual property. No official lawsuits have been filed, but Room’s co-founders are “debating legal action.”

Right now, only iPhone users can download Rooms via App Store. It has not been mentioned yet when the app will be available for Android users.

Have you downloaded the Rooms app? Will you join any conversations? Let me know in the comments below.

Lindsey Silverman

Lindsey is currently a student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. She loves all things social media, so connect with her on Twitter: @Lindzsilver

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