Facebook has released a new iPhone app, Rooms, that allows users to create near-anonymous chat rooms like those from the mid-1990s internet relay chat (IRC) systems.
Rooms does not require a Facebook account to use – only an email address to re-login if switching between devices. The app connects users in a pseudo-anonymous fashion to chat about almost anything, away from the main Facebook experience, and is almost a recreation of IRC – but with Facebook’s terms and conditions applied.
Developed in 1988, IRC allowed users to connect anonymously across the internet and exchange simple text-based messages.
Unlike message boards, IRC did not rely on a website and browser; instead users installed an app on their computers, such as MS Chat, and connected directly to a server. Later files could be transferred, creating a direct connection between users which marked the beginnings of peer-to-peer filesharing.
To join a Room, users scan a 2D barcode, which can be shared publicly or privately to invite only a small selection of people to chat.
Moderators of each room can filter content requiring approval to post and ban anyone, blocking their device from re-joining. Unlike the original message boards, it’s not “anything goes”; Facebook’s community standard guidelines will apply, banning abusive behaviour and the sharing of certain types of material like child abuse images.