The dream of the ’90s is alive in Facebook Rooms

Ah, the 1990s: The grunge music, the overabundance of  flannel, the anonymous chat rooms you explored on your 28.8 dial-up modem. Facebook is reviving at least one of those blasts from the past with its new standalone chat app, Rooms.

The app, released Thursday and currently only available for iPhones, lets users create private chat rooms to post text — just like the good ol’ days — along with photos and videos, in a nod to the Instagram generation.

Rooms was developed by Facebook Creative Labs, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it’s a Facebook product just by looking at it — you don’t need a Facebook account to log in, just an anonymous user name and an optional email address.

Users are able to create a room based on the topic of their choosing (but come on, we all know it’ll be used mostly for sex chats); choose a theme, colors and presentation; invite guests; and moderate content.

The app’s throwback feel is no accident. “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,” Rooms project head Josh Miller said in a blog post. The app is “inspired by both the ethos of these early web communities and the capabilities of modern smartphones,” he said.

The ability to remain anonymous is another signl of Facebook’s evolving standards. Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg long opposed Internet anonymity, even once saying “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” That stance has softened in recent months, following the $21.8 purchase of anonymous chat app WhatsApp, and its recent apology to drag queens as Facebook reversed itself and allowed them to use their stage names on the social network.

Rooms got off to a bumpy start Thursday, with complaints that people were unable to download it. A bug in Apple’s App Store was fixed though, Miller tweeted, and the app appears to be available today.

At top: Screenshots of Rooms, from Facebook Creative Labs. (Facebook photo)
 

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