Rooms, the latest app from Facebook's Creative Lab, harks back to the internet message boards of the 90s – virtual places where anonymous users come together and chat about a topic of common interest. The new app takes the idea of these nostalgic forums and enhances it, complete with customisable features and multimedia capabilities.
With Rooms, users can choose to be as anonymous or as identifiable as they like; a huge departure from Facebook, which requires people use real names. The concept of Rooms makes it yet another fantastic tool for digital marketing along with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Its custom features can be suited to any business venture, and the anonymity of users ensures carefree and honest participation.
Anyone can create a room and choose its topic. From there it works similarly to a Facebook wall or instagram where users add to a feed of text, images and videos, but in keeping with the topic. Rooms can revolve around anything from niche interests to information and resources. It's designed to facilitate as topics as sensitive as finance, sex and health issues.
An early room to have massive success is Kendama, a place where Facebook employees obsess over their favourite Japanese game. Other successful rooms include beat boxing and home-cooked meals, but rooms also stray into more creative and eccentric territory. One room called Kicks from Above focuses on 'cool shoes in cool places', and another is for families who've decided to raise their children on the road.
A creator of a room is able to customise all features, from the colour of the skin to the room's cover photo. The level of customisability goes right down to the choice of emoji for the "like" button. Creators also have full control of participants and their posts, having administrator-type access to content in the feed.
Creators invite users using a QR code, which can be made public or kept exclusive. This way, rooms can be open to anybody or kept private for a select group of family and friends. Room members choose a pseudonym or nickname. They can change names for each room they join, but they must keep the same name in the same room.
One of Rooms' founders, Josh Miller, emphasises the benefits of these anonymous features. "There is a good reason in a lot of situations why you don't want people to know who you are and it's not because of something sketchy," Miller said. "We want to give people flexibility because that's what they want."
Facebook are also developing a version for Android and desktop.