Facebook launches Rooms iOS app to bring the wild, wild web to your smartphone

Pseudonymous message boards and QR codes - more than a little old school

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The Independent Tech

Facebook has launched a new iPhone app that wants to bring the anonymous internet forums of the mid-2000s directly to your smartphone.

Each ‘Room’ functions like a newsfeed or tiny message board. They get a name, a wallpaper and then people are invited to share text, photos, videos or gifs.

Users adopt new identities and nicknames on each room and there’s no link to Facebook profiles (or Twitter or Google+ or anything else). Some of the Rooms currently set up by the app’s team and early adopters are dedicated to trainers, home-cooked food and Kendama – a traditional Japanese cup-and-ball toy.

Users can customize their Rooms so that the like button is renamed and given an emoji-icon of their choice (is your Room all about fishing – then why not upvote content with a whale?) and invitations to join rooms are sent out using QR codes that look a little like cinema tickets.

These can be shared on Twitter or Facebook or sent by text or email. Whenever a user sees one for a topic he or she wants in on they simply screenshot with their phone (or use their phone’s camera to grab it from a computer screen – or, god forbid, an IRL image) and Room automatically turns it into a new board on the app’s homescreen.

Rooms isn’t built to allow you to chat only amongst your Facebook friends or organize days out and the like but simply wants to be a place for people to discuss topics they’re interested in. Like Reddit it also wants to empower it users, giving them the control to make a board’s content searchable (as near as you’ll get to a private discussion) or mark it as 18+ only.

Facebook has set itself a challenge with Rooms. The decision to make it mobile-only and invite-based means the app is going to have to spread by word of mouth, and unless you know the right people then it might be tricky to find rooms that are actually interesting (until, that is, some enterprising users puts an index of popular boards up online).

However, in the long run Facebook knows the future of web is mobile and the whole pseudonymous-message-boards-controlled-by-the-users has proved enduringly popular. People love chatting about topics that actually interest them and the app’s invitation system might even be helpful here – making sure that people don’t get spammed with stuff that doesn’t interest them. Rooms could really work for Facebook - they just need some people to start the party.

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