In the 1990s and early 2000s I was the member of a couple car forums. First Honda forums and then a Subaru forum. I used these forums mostly for technical information. Where to buy used engines and transmission, the best gas for turbo-charged vehicles, how to remove the airbag on a Del Sol without it exploding in my face.
Then Facebook appeared and I stopped visiting forums unless I absolutely needed to get some very specific information about a fuse or cable. Now Facebook, more specifically Josh Miller, the co-founder of Branch which was acquired by Facebook in January 2014, is launching Rooms, an iOS app that recreates the niche world of forums. Room members can drop text, images and videos.
Unlike other Facebook products, Rooms doesn’t tie into the social network. It’s a completely separate entity. In fact you can create a completely new screen name for each room. Maybe for a surfing room you want a screen name that denotes your love of the sea and in a car forum you can give yourself a Honda-themed moniker.
You can create a room about anything. It’s a bit like a sub-reddit without having to use Reddit. You want a room to talk with like-minded individuals about the awesome cartoon Animaniacs? Go for it. Room creators control almost all aspects of a room. You can make it adult only by blocking those under 18. Make sure the conversation is headed in the correct direction by electing to green-light every comment.
But it’s more than just boring administrative items you can control. You can set a background image and adjust the hue over that image. Stuff you’d expect to be able to adjust. But the real fun comes with the ability to customize the “like” button. You can change the name of button (for the Animaniacs room I suggest “Hello Nurse!”) and use Emoji to change the thumbs up to whatever you want. It’s a little thing, but it’s what makes the room your own and it’s part of Miller’s goal to make Rooms more than just an app.
“Our inspiration is WordPress. It’s mainly as a platform for creating rooms like WordPress is a platform for creating blogs,” Miller told TNW. To that end, the app will be updated on a regular basis with more features to keep users engaged. But it’s really up to users.
Do we want to return to those by-gone days of forums where we talk about a single subject with a group of like-minded individuals? I asked Miller if he had any concern about recent Facebook apps that have launched with flurry of media coverage only to quickly have user interest wane. “If this were still my startup I would not be doing a big flashy launch. Because we are Facebook everyone will cover it. Our goal is not to capture everyone that will read this in the press. Our goal is to find, room by room, spin up good rooms.”
Miller would be happy with 100 great rooms at the start. Maybe one of those rooms will be yours.
➤ Rooms (iOS)