In a move favoring anonymity, Facebook plans a new project to launch an app that allows users to interact anonymously, according to two unidentified company insiders. This new mobile app, which does not have a name yet, is expected to be released in the next few weeks. This is a far cry from their main site and its current policies that can boot users off the site for falsifying identity information.
It is unclear if this app will be tied to the main site or how interaction between the two sites will occur. The two insiders said the app will allow more candid interactions, discussing subjects users might not want attached to their real names. It is also unclear how picture sharing and friend interactions with current friends will work. This app may not look anything like the current app over a billion users are familiar with.
There were heavy protests coming from the LGBT communities when social network booted several drag queens off the site who were using their adopted names in place of their birth names. An apology was later given by Facebook. Christopher Cox, the company’s product chief said, in a Facebook post, the company would amend its real-name policy in the future, though was unclear as to how they would handle it.
The new app could be used within community health discussions. People with chronic conditions may not want to discuss health issues publicly. With anonymity, Facebook could become a favorite among these groups as the company has in the works a number of apps that monitor and help improve a users’ health. A team is also looking into creating a preventative care app. Healthcare has been an area of interest for some time for this social media giant and is choosing to pursue this at a time when big tech companies such as Apple and Google are pulling out their own healthcare apps. It is not certain yet if these apps will work together with the new anonymous app.
Privacy has been an issue for the company over the past few years. Facebook recently sent out an apology for tampering with people’s news feed in the name of research. It might be tricky to get users to come over to this app if they feel their personal information might be at risk. There is talk about publishing this app under a different name. Frank Williams noted, “I could see Facebook doing well with applications for lifestyle and wellness.” Williams is chief executive of Evolent Health, a company that provides software and services to doctors and health systems.
Josh Miller, whose previous startup, Branch, a New York City based company that builds social products to empower conversation, was acquired by Facebook in January. He is currently overseeing the apps development at Facebook.
With anonymous users comes the fear of impersonation and higher rates of bullying. Facebook has done well keeping them at bay with their current policies. This Facebook app will join a growing market where anonymity is favored, such as whisper and secret. How Facebook will enforce anti-bullying policies where there might not be any accountability for one’s real identity can only be seen once the app is .
By Paul Sears
Picture by Marco Paköeningrat Flickr
Featured image by Robert Scoble Flickr