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Anonymous App Rooms Growing Slowly -- And That's Okay for Facebook

Facebook: Poor App Store rankings don't mean much for Rooms.

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If you stick to app rankings alone, Facebook’s Rooms app looks familiar to most of Facebook’s 2014 app creations.

Products like Paper (news reader) and Slingshot (ephemeral messaging) stormed out of the gate because they were “the new Facebook app,” then quickly disappeared from the app rankings as the novelty wore off. Josh Miller, the product manager behind Rooms, has seen this same thing happen with his app, which was released in October and lets users create themed chat rooms where you don’t need to use your real identity.

The interesting thing is, he isn’t at all concerned.

“Like 90 percent if not more of the people who downloaded the app in the first week or so probably did so because they read a story in a tech publication about Facebook’s new app,” he said. “As a result, though, a lot of them peaced out.”

“It’s exactly what we expected.”

 The App Store rankings for Rooms over its first month
The App Store rankings for Rooms over its first month
App Annie

Miller is keeping his Rooms goals modest — at least by Facebook standards. The company is used to building products for hundreds of millions of people; with Rooms, Miller hopes to have 100 “really active Rooms” by the app’s first birthday. Users have created “tens of thousands” of rooms since launch, but the company isn’t breaking out total user figures.

It’s a very un-Facebook approach considering the company prides itself on moving fast and putting up massive user figures along the way.

“Because we’re at Facebook, people will question [our strategy] if we’re not blowing up after two months,” Miller said. “I have to constantly remind myself that we can’t rush communities, we have to be patient.”

The new “Explore” section within Rooms
The new “Explore” section within Rooms

Part of that slow growth has been purposeful. Rooms doesn’t offer any kind of search feature, making it difficult for people to find new content. An update Wednesday will highlight five recommended rooms at a time under a new “Explore” section — still no full-blown search, but an attempt at helping people discover new content.

These recommendations will be curated, in part to try and keep the app a safe place, says Miller. Anonymous apps like Yik Yak, Whisper and After School have all dealt with issues of inappropriate content. Rooms has, too. Topics range from support groups for mental health issues or alcoholism to others loaded with porn.

Miller says he’s trying to keep those inappropriate rooms off the app. If Facebook hand selects which Rooms are featured while limiting the ability to search for the bad Rooms, it can control the app environment better, he says.

In the past, slow-growing apps like Poke, a Snapchat lookalike, were killed off by Facebook when they didn’t gain traction. That’s not a concern for Miller. Still, don’t expect Rooms to join Facebook’s other uber-successful products Messenger or Instagram any time soon.

With Rooms, it appears Facebook is happy to play the waiting game.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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