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It’s a premise Ekho Powell, a 33-year-old public relations professional in Florida, agrees with.She’s toned down her Facebook use and migrated to anonymous apps like Banter, which allows users to chat with others nearby."Social media built great roads and connections to people’s lives," Powell said. But somewhere along the line, it broke down our carefully constructed boundaries." To entice users like Powell, newer services have crafted their entire platforms around preserving these boundaries.
"In Rooms you can be ‘Wonder Woman’—or whatever name makes you feel most comfortable and proud," writes the Rooms development team in their inaugural blog post.
That anonymity—something Facebook has generally avoided—is part of the appeal, experts say.
In an environment where many social networks now encourage or mandate real names, the freedom to use a moniker is refreshing, according to Chris Hajek, a professor of communication at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
"[They] fulfill a need other sites or other forms of communication don’t," he says.
Tags Chat allows users to build a spartan profile—nickname, one photo, location, and a handful of other details—and then add a series of "tags," or interests.
Once logged in, users can live-chat with others who care about the same things.), but also a collection of far more tags too niche to sustain, say, a devoted subreddit: Marcel Proust, Belgian beers, and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
Tags Chat was conceived in September of 2013, says Matteo Frana, the social network’s founder, to more easily connect people around passion points.
Apps and services that allow users to real-time chat are experiencing a kind of renaissance, with the likes of Banter, Rooms, and Hip Chat muscling in on email and text messaging.
The da Vinci of this particular revival is Slack—the just-over-one-year-old service has already nabbed a .12 billion valuation and hooked more than 250,000 users. A central chat room for employees to share messages, photos, and company updates.