Facebook is Implementing AOL's Most Popular Feature (AOL, FB)
Long before Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Twitter, MySpace and other social networks took over the world, consumers turned to virtual chat rooms to socialize online.
But they weren't just any Web-based hub for communication -- they were AOL's (NYSE: AOL) chat rooms. Built specifically for America Online, they were the fastest, the easiest to access and the most intuitive available. Unlike today's social networks, which can be used by anyone using any device and any Internet Service Provider, AOL's chat rooms were an exclusive feature.
Those days are long gone, but the lure to socialize online continues to flourish. Between the hundreds of millions of Twitter users and the one billion people that have signed up for Facebook, social media is everything Mark Zuckerberg could have hoped for and more.
While most social networks feature instantaneous message posting, none of them offer a true chat room experience. Facebook hopes to change that when it launches a new feature sometime in the near feature.
According to TechCrunch, Facebook has confirmed that it is testing a feature codenamed "Host Chat." It will allow people to set up chat rooms that their friends can join with or without an invitation -- similar to the AOL chat rooms of yesteryear.
The goal is to allow Facebook users to chat with each other even if they have yet to "Friend" each other. While it does not appear that strangers can enter a chat room, 'Bob Everyman' could allow three unconnected friends to join the conversation. If everyone starts to chat, they could soon become 'Friends.'
Facebook hopes that this will inspire its one billion users to spend more time on the site.
Ten years ago, this might have been laughed off as an attempt to revitalize a dead feature. Today, it could very well be the step that ensures Facebook maintains its dominance in social media.
Millions of Facebook users are under the age of 20. Most of them have not experienced a real chat room experience, let alone the one crafted by AOL in the 1990s. This means that Facebook can create something that is entirely new for these users.
Older consumers -- those in their 30s and 40s -- may also be amused by the chat rooms, if only for the unavoidable sense of nostalgia.
If marketed correctly, Facebook could use its chat system to supplement or replace online dating sites. Many users already turn to Facebook to learn more about their potential mate. The site could now take this one step further by making it easier to make an introduction.
Louis Bedigian is the Senior Tech Analyst and Features Writer of Benzinga. You can reach him at 248-636-1322 or louis(at)benzingapro(dot)com. Follow him @LouisBedigianBZ
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