What is Facebook 'Rooms'? A quick look at the new app
Friday 07 November 2014
Facebook recently launched its Rooms app for iOS, seen by many as an attempt to reinvent the internet chat room. We decided to check it out to see what the hype is all about, whether it has much potential for consumers or commercial application for businesses.
What is the Rooms app? Is it really a chat room?
Kind of, but not really. Although Rooms allows unconnected people to read and post messages, media and comments in a themed forum, if anything, we would describe Rooms as more of an attempt to emulate twitter than to reinvent the chat room.
When you enter a Room, the interface is very much like a facebook news feed, and the fact that users are encouraged to upload media means there’s very little room on screen for simple shared conversation, such as for people to simply say hello!
Unlike chat rooms of old you can see previous posts by others when you enter, which again seems to tilt the emphasis to sharing posts rather than casually chatting to other members.
What can/can’t you do in Rooms?
Firstly, you can’t just use it – you have to create an account, even if you are already on facebook. Once joined, though, as you would expect you can create your own ‘room’ or join someone else’s. Once in a room, you can post messages, pictures, video, and comment on other’s posts – much like facebook’s news feed.
Joining a room, however, is not as easy as you would think. Access to all rooms is one by QR code, which means you have to take a screenshot of a QR code and you have to allow the app access to your camera roll to detect the QR codes and add the associated room to your list. We assume the process is designed to give a sense of exclusivity, but to us it feels like a fad and not at all user-friendly. What’s wrong with a link?
It’s also hard to find rooms in the first place. While users can share their rooms’ QR codes with others, you can’t browse rooms by category, so finding the right room for you is not at all easy.
Unlike what you would expect of a chat room of old, though, you can’t customise your fonts, stream voice or pick emoticons. You also can’t see who, if anyone, is currently in the room. The time is also not shown by users’ posts, which means it’s hard even to know how active a room really is. And when there are a lot of posts in a room, it’s hard to distinguish between different users because the font style is the same for everyone.
What potential business application is there for Rooms?
Aside from spamming relevant rooms with subtle posts advertising your business, we can’t see many. And even if you did, we’re not convinced many people would see them, though that would depend on the room.
Currently there is no advertising in the rooms. That could change, of course, particularly if the app becomes popular, but we don’t think that is likely in its current form.
Given its resources, we think facebook is throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks. Rooms would have been a good idea if it really was a sincere attempt at putting anonymous, public internet chat rooms into facebook itself, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. It will need to be more engaging, more accessible, easy to use and more widely supported than just iOS before it could become something that will see many regular active users and any particularly useful application.