Facebook has released a new app that allows for semi-anonymous chatrooms. Called Rooms, it’s currently available for iOS, with an Android and iPad native port not far away.
The decision to release an anonymous chat app is an unusual one for Facebook. Previously, they’ve deactivated the accounts of anyone with a name that’s even moderately unusual, and their strict stance on the use of real names has resulted in the creation of Ello, an ad-free social network which permits pseudonymous usage.
If you thought the chatroom died in the late 90s, this app proves you wrong. It allows users to create and join rooms with a set topic, and then invite people to them through a QR code. Postings can also be ‘liked’ and commented upon, much like they are on Facebook.
Curious as to whether this app is for you? Read on for my hands-on review.
Rooms is already available for free on the app store. Some people have had issues downloading it, and it’s not showing up in some searches (it didn’t show up in mine). Facebook have created a direct link to the app store. You can grab it at rooms.me/download.
When you install the app and run it for the first time, you are given a QR code. This one-time code is effectively your keys to the site. Once it’s generated, Rooms will scan your photo library and add Recommended Rooms to your library. We’ll talk about this later.
There are no names required. No IDs. Nothing. If you want to use your Rooms account across devices, you can register with your email address.
You don’t have to specify a password. Rooms will generate a one-time key for you and send it to your email. Just type it in, and you’ve logged in. Easy.
Regardless of whether you’ve registered with your email account or not, you can create a chatroom in rooms. First, you’ve got to specify a name for the room, as well as choose the color scheme. I went with a slightly garish magenta. You’ll also be prompted to create a nickname to use in the room. This can be anything. Even a pseudonym, if you wish.
Then, you can set some security and privacy settings. These include marking the room as 18+; ideal if you’re going to be posting content of a sexually explicit or suggestive nature. Although, it’s a little bit surprising given Facebook’s track record in this area.
Rooms can also be set as private. These are obscured from the public search results, meaning that people can’t serendipitously join and start messing up your room. To invite other people, you have to send them the QR code that is unique to it.
There are other customizations that can be made. Fed up with ‘liking’ things? Well, you can rename it to whatever you want, much like fellow iOS app Hi-Fi did, by calling it ‘cert-fifing’. You can also change the emoji associated with the button.
There’s a decent range of media that can be posted to your room. There’s a choice between pictures, text and videos, although the ability to post links as it works on Facebook would be nice.
You can see what rooms you’re a member of from the app’s home-screen. These are arranged in rectangular cards that you can swipe through.
Joining rooms through QR Code is also done through the home screen. Just tap the ‘join room’, and either take a photo of the QR code with your camera, or select a screenshot from your photo library.
If you’re new to Rooms, and you’re looking to meet new people, you might want to check out their recommended channels. So far, Facebook have only got recommended channels for travel, music and food. Since the app is only (at the time of writing) a few hours old, there’s not much here. But that’s sure to expand with time.
Rooms is a curious beast. It’s a massive diversion from Facebook as we currently understand it, with its massive hunger for personal, identifiable information and its rather strict enforcement of the rules surrounding what can be posted, and what cannot.
It’s also interesting to see a revival of the chatroom; a concept that very much died when MySpace and Facebook showed up on the scene.
But, since it’s early days, it’s hard to discern what Facebook hopes to gain from Rooms. What do you think? Are you a fan of the idea? Will you be downloading the app? Let me know in the comments below.
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