Facebook has just launched Rooms, a new Reddit-style app that lets users form discussion groups about certain topics.
The app is a throwback to old fashioned forums, message boards and chatrooms that were popular during the early days of the Internet. Essentially, it's a publishing tool that gives moderators more control over everything, from choosing the appearance of the discussion space or "Room" and determining who gets to join it.
While the app is based on late '90s Internet tools, it's been rebooted to serve a modern audience. Instead of just disseminating long-winded forum posts, the Rooms app is more suited for housing photos and videos. It's like a mash-up between Instagram and old-style college message boards.
However, the best thing about the Rooms app may be the power it provides moderators in terms of determining who gets to join the discussion. If you've ever spent time on Reddit, you'll know why this may be for the best. Internet discussion boards can be abrasive and people may be more compelled to behave if they can be booted out at a moment's noice.
Moderators can choose whether to invite a select group of people or just post the invite to their social network accounts to make it public. The way invitations are sent out for Rooms is also unique; users who receive invites for certain discussion groups can gain entry by scanning a special QR code. Of course, there is the risk that someone on the list would invite a troll. Even then, a moderator would have complete control. The app provides administrators the ability to not just ban accounts, but also the devices the posts came from.
In spite of the app's affiliation with Facebook, which is notorious for privacy violations and its efforts to collect user data, the app promises a certain level of anonymity. A Facebook account and an email address are not necessary to join a room. The only information that you would need to provide is a username and password. You also won't be stuck with just one username; you can change your username from one room to another.
Rooms was developed by Facebook's Creative Labs, the team responsible for recent releases such as Snapchat-like Slingshot and news app Paper. So far, the app is only available for iOS, with an Android release expected for early 2015. It's also only available in the U.S., the UK and a few other countries.