Rust’s defining feature is maximum player freedom with an eye towards encouraging and nuturing emergent gameplay.
There’s no pop-up Friends List window, and there likely never will be. However, someone suggested to garry that you should be able to define nicknames for players on the basis that you will learn to recognize someone’s features, but with Rust’s limited customization, that would be abstracted to a nickname label that is separate from their Steam name. I don’t know that he’s committed to the idea, but his reply was, basically, “I really like this idea.”
This idea also opens up a HUGE opportunity for emergent gameplay based around deception. You aren’t a single canonical name everywhere; instead, you are whoever you identify yourself as to different people. With one group of players in the valley next to your group’s base (with whom you’re peaceful with), you’re known as Bob, but to the gang they’re at war with, that you’re also secretly friends with, you’re John. You’re playing both camps off on each other, depleting their resources and encouraging them to go to war, so that you can betray both of them and drive them out of the entire valley when the moment is right, or something.
Just don’t walk into a room with both of them as they both call you different names in front of each other.
Likewise, another often-asked-for feature is a trading window. Again, this will likely never happen. Instead, you do what real people in the real world do. You negotiate the deal, and then you exchange items in physical space. In Rust, this means you throw that shit on the ground, visually inspect that the other’s items are what you want, and then swap places and pick up what’s at your feet.
People complain that this method means you might get ripped off, and there’s no protection from you getting shot in the face when you stop and open up your inventory window and are temporarily helpless. Yup. If you don’t trust the person, don’t trade with them and shoot them or run away instead. The game gives you the freedom to be ripped off instead of being a referee and police officer and controlling the trade in a mutual-confirmation UI.
Clothing customization, as well as avatar customization, is on the way, but I don’t know about highly customizable clothing, aside from the stuff already being mentioned on the devblog, like covering your junk with mud or using scrap-tire-plate armor. Second Life has everyone beat on clothing options, and they can keep it.
You can read more about Rust’s commitment to player freedom on garry’s blog post about the direction and future of Rust.