Facebook’s “Rooms” application, like many of the experiments put out by Facebook’s Creative Labs – which is also responsible for apps like Paper, Slingshot, Mentions and Groups – has not been an overnight viral sensation. However, it is notable for being the first app from Facebook that didn’t require users to go by their real name, allowing Rooms’ users to discuss topics of interest – including those where you may not want to be directly identified or outed to your friends, as with disease support groups, perhaps, among other things.
But when Rooms first launched, it was difficult for users to find groups to join because of how the invitation process worked. Today, that’s been partially corrected with the launch of a new discovery feature within the app.
When Rooms launched in October, anyone could create a room on a topic of their choosing, but there was no way for users to find these rooms in the app itself. Instead, users would have to get an invite from another person in order to get in. The decision was one that likely limited some of Rooms’ early adoption and initial traction.
Additionally, the app uses QR codes as its invite method, which though more broadly understood by mainstream users, are still a bit cumbersome to use in the case of joining a social networking application.
After receiving an invite to a room, users would have to sign up for an account after installing the app, then give the app access to their camera and photos in order to either snap a photo of the invite or pull it from their Camera Roll – all this just to get connected with the room they were invited to join. (Rooms also offers a workaround for those who don’t have any invites yet, by providing one itself).
The ability to invite users via QR code could be a handy added feature for moderators interested in sharing Rooms with others, but maybe should not have been the primary way to start filling up the app with active users at first.
However, at the time of its launch, Rooms creator Josh Miller said he wanted to grow the app slowly in order to build a base of loyal users, so to some extent, the complicated invite process was intentional, it’s suggested.
Facebook today says there have been “tens of thousands” of rooms created to date, which decent traction for a new app, though it pales when compared with Facebook’s scale, of course.
But now Rooms is making it easier to bring on new users to try its service.
The addition of the new “Explore” feature in Rooms, out now in version 1.2, allows users to tap a button on the top-left of the app’s main screen in order to browse through suggested rooms they may like to join. These include mainstream-friendly choices like “Street Art,” “Live Music,” “Favorite Book Quotes,” and other innocuous titles.
You can also hit a refresh button to see the initial set of choices swapped out for new ones, but there’s no current way to filter the options by room type or category (like Art, Culture, Tech, Support Groups, etc.). However, at the very least, the change may give people who have yet to try Rooms a chance to take a look if they hadn’t before.
The new app is live on iTunes now.