Facebook has been testing a new feature for its Messenger app — public chat rooms, a bulletin board-style feature that lets people engage with those outside their Facebook “friends” on a dedicated topic. Currently, Facebook allows multiple people to chat using its “Group Chat” Feature, but it is limited to chats between friends on Facebook.
Drew Moxon, product manager, Facebook, told Australian website Courier Mail on Saturday: “Group chats today are focused on people you know — friends and family — and what we’ve found by talking to users is there’s a lot of need for conversations about specific topics.”
The new feature, which is currently in the testing phase in Canada and Australia, will allow users to create their own “Rooms” via the Messenger app, invite members, approve new members, set a nickname for themselves and configure notifications. Facebook will allow users to set rooms to private setting, in which only those who are approved by an administrator can join the chat. No date has been confirmed for the U.S. availability of the feature.
Hints of rooms’ existence were dropped when source code for the feature was discovered in the Messenger app in September. The text found in the code read, “rooms are for public conversations about topics and interests. Each Room has a link that can be shared so anyone on Messenger can join the conversation.”
This is not the first time Facebook has worked on such a feature. In 2014, the company launched a standalone “Rooms” feature, but it did not catch up with users and the company had to nix the feature ultimately.
The latest report comes soon after the company was recently accused of influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has denied the allegations.