Facebook Rooms 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)

Facebook on Thursday unveiled a brand new iPhone application. Called Rooms and available free of charge in the App Store, it’s a flashback of sorts to the Internet bulletin boards which used to be all the rage in the 1980s. It’s essentially that anonymous Facebook sharing app that the The New York Times reported on earlier this month.

Facebook Creative Labs project, Rooms lets you create places for the things you’re passionate about.

It’s fairly straightforward: just pick your favorite topic, customize the look and feel of your room and share with others. Others can join your rooms either through private invitations or by posting a public link.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Room is a lot like Reddit. “It’s perfect for the things you love and interests that make you unique,” said the social networking giant.

“A room is a feed of photos, videos, and text – not too different from the one you have on Instagram or Facebook – with a topic determined by whoever created the room,” Facebook said.

You don’t need a Facebook account to use Rooms as the app accepts standard logins in the form of username and password. You don’t even have to give them your email address — only a username will do — unless you want to be on the safe side in case your password needs resetting.

Harkening back to the early days of the Internet, indeed.

In another much welcomed move, Rooms doesn’t even let you import friend lists from Facebook or any other service. That’s a pretty big deal given Facebook’s own discussion groups require people to go by their real names.

Facebook Rooms 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 003)

Interestingly enough, you can change your username from one room to another. After creating a room, the app offers some basic customization choices, with more to come in the future.

I was surprised that the software would allow me to change both the look and functionality of the Like button, by changing its text and emoji. Moreover, it’s possible to change a cover photo and dominant colors, create custom “pinned” messages and more.

You’re in control of the rooms you create, with interesting options at your disposal allowing you to approve each user-submitted post, list your room in search and more.

Facebook Rooms 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 002)

Of course, everyone can contribute to the conversation and interact with your community by posting messages, adding photos and videos with captions and more.

Rooms is born out of Facebook’s acquisition of a start-up called Branch Media, which was working on the technology prior to the Facebook deal.

Key highlights:

  • Pick a topic: Create a home for people who are as into the topic as you are.
  • Customize the look and feel: Pick a color, choose an emoji for your like button, and more!
  • Be whoever you want to be: Choose nicknames for yourself, real or made up.
  • Share with others: Invite other people so you can share photos, videos, and notes with them.

The 16.5-megabyte iPhone and iPod touch download requires iOS 7.0 or later. The app is initially available on iOS in the United States, United Kingdom and some other English speaking countries.

[App Store, Facebook PR, Rooms Website, Rooms Blog]