Facebook's new "Rooms" app will allow users to connect over shared interests anonymously, giving retailers a possible new avenue for consumer insight.
Even in the earliest days of the Internet, people realized there was an enormous potential to connect to others with similar interests in ways that were previously unimaginable. One of the earliest ways that people used to meet others online was through discussion boards and forums based on a certain topic. The hallmark of these earliest forms of online communication was anonymity. Since users weren't forced to use their real names, online discussions could take place with participants free of the fear of personal retribution or bias for their possibly unpopular views.
Early adopters of the internet craved anonymity
As one would imagine, giving people a chance to adopt a pseudonym and an identity separate from their "real life" persona led to some pretty honest and frank conversations. Soon after, businesses started to catch on and realized their customers were using these very mediums to discuss their products and services in the most brutally honest way. These discussion boards became a greater source of consumer insight than even the most sophisticated focus groups and surveys.
Facebook brings anonymity back
As one commentator at The New York Times pointed out, anonymity has always been desirable for devoted denizens of the Internet, as it is seen as one of the few public forums in which people, speaking through a pseudonym, can voice their opinions freely no matter how extreme or unfashionable they are. Facebook, among other tech giants, has worked against this nearly hallowed principle of online anonymity by forcing users to post under their real names. It is interesting, then, that Facebook would release an app that will bring pseudonyms back to the web.
Facebook recently released its "Rooms" app which, according to USA Today, is an iOS app that will allow people to connect over shared interests without using their real names. A "room" is a feed where members can contribute and see text posts, pictures and videos posted by other members. Anyone can create a room for a topic and then invite others who need nothing more than a username (not their real name) and password.
Rooms is a discussion board for the Instagram generation of Internet users. People can connect and share their passions and opinions with like-minded people without worrying about being personally ridiculed or punished for what they like or how they choose to express themselves. The privacy and anonymity of Rooms may give some of that capacity for unvarnished honesty that businesses haven't been able to hear as much, creating what could be a potent form of consumer insight going forward.