Facebook is currently experimenting with a new Messenger feature that enables its users to talk to strangers.
Public Meeting Room
Dubbed as Rooms, the feature has been described as a public forum-like, real-time messaging feature and is now being tested in Australia.
"Group chats today are focused on people you know — friends and family — and what we've found by talking to users is there's a lot of need for conversations about specific topics," Drew Moxon, product manager for Facebook Messenger, said. "This will be for topic-based conversations and so people can talk with others they may not know."
The Messenger Rooms feature works like other public chat concepts found in instant messaging apps. Viber, for example, has a Public Account feature, which includes a public chat room for users subscribed to an account. If you follow BBC, then you will be able to talk to other people who follow this account.
Using Facebook Rooms
Messenger Rooms, on the other hand, is topic-based. This means that a user can join a public conversation on a specific topic such as Donald Trump, internet security or cooking. The range of topics is expected to expand significantly once the feature gets its public rollout.
According to Facebook, Rooms is partly being designed to keep you out of your friends' hairs especially when you have diverging views on certain subjects. By drawing you to converse with people who share similar interests, Facebook hopes you will find less opportunity to pester your contacts with conversations they care very little about.
For those in the loop, Facebook actually tinkered with Rooms as a stand-alone app. For a while, Facebook tested the app, with users free to create any topic that they want. You can actually call it Facebook's version of the Reddit app but it did not require a Facebook or an email account to use.
The idea was to allow you to express yourself by providing you the security of anonymity. It had a unique QR code-based invite system to gain entry to a room. Unfortunately, semi-autonomous Rooms did not pan out so it is getting integrated into the Messenger app instead. It seems that the anonymous variable proved too experimental for a platform that banks on a user's identity within a networked ecosystem where people are connected with family, friends and new acquaintances.
"It's part of what made Facebook special in the first place," Chris Cox, chief product officer at Facebook, told the New York Times. "By differentiating the service from the rest of the internet where pseudonymity, anonymity, or often random names were the social norm."