Facebook decides to follow the anonymous communication trend with Rooms
According to an article released by Mashable early this morning, Facebook is or rather has launched it’s own anonymous chat app and it’s called Rooms. We had a quick look in the UAE iTunes store and couldn’t seem to find it and even those in the US are apparently having issues downloading it now. But as always, it won’t be long until it’s downloading properly and slowly but surely making it’s way outside of the US. We have such a multi national make up of our population in the UAE that even when Apps come out and are country specific, there is a very high percentage chance that someone from the UAE will be visiting that country and have the chance to pick up that app.
Anyway, back to Rooms, where no one knows your name. Interestingly it’s a completely stand alone app and employs the use of QR codes, quite extensively I might add, to work. I only bring this up as QR codes have been around for a long time now. They were a fad in the UAE at one point and remain a passing fad because no body really understood how to use them. The most inappropriate use of one I saw was the 60 foot high one a brand decided to hang off the side of Wafi. Just so you know, QR codes work by holding up your mobile device and scanning the code using a code reader app. So you can see how the 60 foot one at the side of Sheik Zayed Road was perhaps not well thought out. The state of driving is bad enough without encouraging people to try and scan a QR code whilst driving at 120km an hour! Having said that, as any tool, when used properly it’s pretty cool. In this case you can then share these generated codes online, through social, email and even offline through printed copies and it offers a seamless way to get involved (this assumes that your target market understands QR code scanning of course!)
The main focus for Facebook Rooms is to allow you to create a ‘private’ chat area with a few chosen parties on a subject you are passionate about. Why you would need to be anonymous if you were all passionate about the same thing is beyond me, but anyway, this is what Facebook Rooms is for. It’s really pandering to the trend of anonymous apps and the marketing spin is ‘to allow you to be whoever you want to be, without judgement.’
When you download the app you are able to either join an existing room, there are 4 ‘recommended’ ones as standard. Or you can go ahead and set your own room up – you can customise the colours, the look and feel and you can even customise the ‘Like’ button, the example quoted in Wired’s coverage is that of a bird watching room, where you might change the Like button to a Seen button for when you identify that particular bird in the wild. When you join the group, you are given the choice of who you want to be, so you could be yourself if you wanted to be. So in retrospect this ability does have a legitimate advantage, because we often express different opinions and different personas depending on our situation. (Think representing a brand over your personal opinion social media managers)
Do we need another anonymous channel to communicate? I don’t think so. Did Facebook NEED to create this? No they didn’t, but you only need to look at the myriad of anonymous chat apps flooding the market to see that this was a trend that Facebook felt they couldn’t miss out on. It will be interesting to see the take up of this app, their Slingshot app is still out there but we don’t really hear much about that, after it’s launch.
One particular issue we have with this app, which many of these chat apps have, is the fact that you can set up a Room that is 18+ but there is no verification process, so anyone under 18 could just say there are over and enter the room. It’s not unique to this app, and we really feel that developers of these apps, and especially a brand like Facebook should build more safety functions into these apps to protect those that perhaps don’t know or understand yet, how to protect themselves.