Canadians will be among the first in the world to try Facebook’s latest feature, as the social media giant debuts Rooms on its Messenger platform.
Launching on Thursday in Australia and Canada, Messenger Rooms will allow users to create spaces to chat about a topic important to them. Similar to Messenger’s Group chat function, these can be thematic, event or topic based. They can be private or public, but will be capped at 250 participants at this point.
It’s an “everything old is new again” type of move, as it’s a bit of throwback to the chat rooms that were one of the first incarnations of online community on the web. Rather than a static message board, though, this has the liveliness of online chat.
“Before, in order to get into a group (chat), you needed to add or invite them — that’s how the group grows,” said Stan Chudnovsky, head of product, Facebook Messenger. “We’ve been talking to our users, and the feedback that was constant was why can’t we have thematic groups that can just be found?”
As an example, Chudnovsky points to a Room set up when there’s a hockey game on. “People want to talk about that, and they all want to get together. They don’t mind having a bunch of people in there.”
Rooms users will be able to publicly share links to the topic-based areas, and the administrators will have tools to revoke access if some users choose to be disruptive or abusive. As well, private Rooms can be made so they won’t be discoverable.
It’s an interesting move, as the company launched a stand-alone app called Rooms in 2014, but it didn’t really gain a lot of traction — an issue with many of the company’s stand-alone apps — so the company eventually shuttered it in 2015.
Chudnovsky says Rooms will be better because more than one billion people are already using Messenger. With a 250 person limit, the company expects there will often be several rooms based around popular events, such as live sporting events.
If nothing else, it is an on-trend technology move. Two years ago apps were hot, but now many tech companies are building more functionality into their messaging services. Many are taking inspiration from WeChat and its competitors in Asia, where messaging platforms contain many tools and options for consumers to do business and communicate with companies.
In addition to increased functionality, Facebook is also looking at ways to monetize Messenger, although Chudnovsky says there are no plans to try to make money off the Rooms feature at this time.
But starting this week, the company will be bringing new ads to its Newsfeed, which will then open up in Messenger, and use chatbots to converse with users.
Chatbots are automated services that converse with customers over messaging platforms, and can help with queries and potentially sell consumers goods and services.
“We believe that the combination of driving people from News Feed into a Messenger experience, and having an additional opportunity to re-engage with sponsored messages is a game changer,” said David Marcus, vice president and head of Facebook Messenger to USA Today.
As well, Facebook confirmed to online technology site Techcrunch on Tuesday that the company is experimenting with recruiting tools that would allow companies to post job listings on its Business Pages, which would set it up to compete with LinkedIn. It would allow companies to promote career opportunities and allow candidates to apply directly via Facebook Messenger.
Facebook is also testing a feature in Ireland called Style Transfer, which take photos and processes them through filters to look in a style similar to famous works of art. It looks very similar to the features of Prisma, a popular app from this past summer.