Facebook reportedly testing chat room feature

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By Justin Lafferty

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Facebook’s group messaging feature could use some work, but it seems like a solution may be on the horizon. It appears that the site is building a chat room function, according to TechCrunch. Facebook confirmed to the site that it is working on a chat room feature that would allow users to join a chat without a direct invitation.

Facebook told TechCrunch that this was more of a test of a feature rather than something the company is ready to roll out, noting that “we do test things from time to time with a small percentage of users.” TechCrunch compared this feature to AOL chat rooms, which were wildly popular in the days before Facebook and other social media site.

It appears that Facebook is trying to find some way to build messaging products. After Facebook’s Snapchat-like iOS app Poke largely fell flat, a chat room feature that differs from the site’s group messaging feature could be interesting, if implemented properly on mobile.

A source told TechCrunch — with the caveat that the feature, if released, could differ greatly — that the chat prompt would be in the status update bar, next to the buttons for Update Status and Add Photos/Video. When a user clicks the Host Chat button, the user can name the room if there’s a specific topic or reason for a chat.

Users don’t need to be invited, unlike the messaging feature. When a person starts a chat room, it will create a News Feed story. If a user’s friend sees this, they can just click the link and join the chat. Hosts can set privacy settings so only certain people would see the News Feed story to join the chat, and the host can eject people from the chat room at any time.

As TechCrunch speculated, this could be a way for Facebook to compete with Google Plus’ Hangouts, which are more video-based and growing in popularity.

Readers: Do you think Facebook needs the ability to create chat rooms?

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