Though Facebook has always insisted that users sign in and operate their Facebook accounts only with their real names, it launched a new app called Rooms on Wednesday, which will allow users to chat to each other using pseudonyms or aliases. This app which has at present been rolled out only to iOS users in Britain and USA will soon be made available for Android and desktop devices too.
“One of the magical things about the early days of the web was connecting to people who you would never encounter otherwise in your daily life. Forums, message boards and chatrooms were meeting places for people who didn’t necessarily share geographies or social connections, but had something in common,” explained Facebook Product Manager Josh Miller on the Rooms blog.
Like the forums of the early days of the internet, Rooms allows users to create and join feeds based on interests.
“A room is a feed of photos, videos, and text,” explained Miller, “with a topic determined by whoever created the room.” The creator can customize the room in various ways from emojis to age limits to cover photos and invites are sent out via 2D QR codes. Unlike their “anything goes” predecessors, Rooms must abide by Facebook’s community standard guidelines.
Miller emphasized that Rooms allows users to be “be whoever we want to be.”
Recently, Facebook was hit with criticism over cracking down on its “real name” policy. Facebook issued an apology earlier this month for the “real names” incident and amended its policy to allow “preferred names” to assuage transgendered people, domestic violence survivors, activists, and others. With Rooms, users can create different identities for different chatrooms.
“Today, as we spend more time on our phones, primarily to communicate with friends and family, the role of the internet as a “third place” has begun to fade,” wrote Miller. Rooms intends to change that, allowing users to step back from their immediate connections and “break away from the constraints of our everyday selves.”