Facebook Creative Labs have announced a new app that takes us back to the early days of the internet.
Rooms is an (iOS-only for now) app that emulates the chat-room platforms from the dawn of digital communities. A cluster of pseudonymous message boards, you don’t have to link it to your Facebook profile. You do log in with a confirmed email address, however.
The intention is to develop a persona away from Facebook. Josh Miller, the brains behind the app, pitches it as a way to avoid spamming your friends with countless posts on a single topic. Such places exist online, but this is a first for mobile. You can build a different identity in each room, while there is no space for a profile. Who you are comes down to what you post.
You can go by your given name or a handle of your choosing. This means you that you can present yourself how you’d like to be seen but it also allows a room moderator to ban you from rooms they control. Being banned deletes your submissions and comments, giving moderators the power-of-God to boot out and/or report disruptive or inappropriate users.
A “room” functions as a feed of text, images and videos adhering to a subject that the room’s creator chooses. This creator has the authority to control the skin of the room, pin messages, and administrate member permissions. When creating a room, the moderator can choose:
- Whether or not submissions require moderating before publishing
- If a room member must declare themselves over 18 when entering for the first time
- If posts can be discovered by searches* or not
- If non-members can comment on posts or not
Its initial layout and functionality are similar to Instagram, though a room has more focus than your Instagram feed. Where it differs is its lack of an in-app search function. How your posts might be discovered by searches (*see above) isn’t quite clear. To find more rooms, you have to go looking for them; in rooms themselves, online and (potentially) in real life.
The team at Facebook Inc. have stated that they intend to “continue to add more customizable features and ways to tweak your room. The Rooms team is committed to building tools that let you create your perfect place.” One nice little touch is the power to alter your “Like” button, text and emoji.
For brands, the obvious benefit of Rooms is that it provides a centre of gravity. The room you create provides your fans with a feed to share and discuss content with friends and strangers. As long as it is curated and moderated well, there’s no reason you can’t utilise this platform to engage a whole new community.
As mentioned above, the identity you promote is based solely on what you post. Brands have the potential to reinvent or just reinforce their message, through a well thought out content plan.
Using QR code “invites” to allow access to rooms, brands are able to invite users by posting their invitation code across their social platforms, not to mention on posters, magazine pages, bus stops, packaging; anywhere people can hold their smartphone camera up, really. QR codes might be considered “dead as a dodo,” though, so this might not be the master-stroke Facebook hopes it will be.
The advantage of the QR invitation system is that growth will most likely be organic, meaning any brand looking to win on Rooms will have to create genuinely engaging content and engage their audience. Facebook is sticking to its model of scale-first, monetize-later, in that there are no plans yet to place ads on Rooms.
That doesn’t mean brands won’t be looking for ways to take advantage of the platform, should it take off. There is no evidence yet of big brands leveraging the new platform, though it’s only a matter of time. Invite codes embedded in Facebook adverts, on Twitter feeds and in videos would get the ball rolling, and are quicker and easier to distribute than printed media. What Rooms needs is a big commercial partnership or two (e.g. Nike, Disney or Coca Cola) to reach a wide audience, quickly.
Over to you.
What do you think? Is Rooms the next big app?