Facebook launches throwback chat application Rooms

24 Oct 2014

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Despite its strict policy of users providing their real names, Facebook appears to miss the old-fashioned anonymous chat room. So much so, in fact, that the social network has launched a new application to fill the void.

The smartphone app, Rooms, allows users to create threads to discuss topics with people they don’t necessarily know. The design of each ‘room’ is customisable and, like a typical Facebook thread, allows photos and videos to be posted.

However, Rooms doesn’t require a Facebook account to work, and chatters can set their name to whatever they want.

“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,” the company wrote via the Rooms website.

“Forums, message boards and chatrooms were meeting places for people who didn’t necessarily share geographies or social connections, but had something in common. Places where what you said mattered more than who you were and whom you knew.

“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.”

Rooms is available to download for iPhone, with an Android release yet to be announced.

Facebook’s usual insistence that its products’ users provide their real names had been underlined in a recent letter sent to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after the organisation obtained a woman’s images and used them to create a fake profile on the social network. The woman in question, Sondra Arquiett, is now suing the DEA, claiming its actions violated her privacy and placed her in danger.

“We regard the DEA’s conduct to be a knowing and serious breach of Facebook’s terms and policies,” wrote Facebook’s chief security officer, Joe Sullivan.

“Facebook asks that the DEA immediately confirm that it has ceased all activities on Facebook that involve the impersonation of others or that otherwise violate our terms and policies.”

Mobile image via Shutterstock

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Dean is a freelance journalist and editor covering media.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com