Since day one, Facebook has required users to use their real names when signing up to the site and while that has partly been behind much of its success, the social network has long come in for plenty of criticism due to its refusal to accept sign-ups where users wish to remain anonymous.
That stance has left the market wide open for competitors to offer anonymous messaging and the like, with apps like Whisper proving popular. It seems that Facebook is acutely aware of the situation it finds itself in and, according to a new report form the New York Times, is about to launch its own private, anonymous messaging application.
Quoting sources who understandably didn’t want to be named, the publication claims that a new stand-alone app will give users the ability to interact without using their real names – something that the Facebook website nor its current apps make possible.
"The project is being led by Josh Miller, a product manager at Facebook who joined the company when it acquired Branch, his start-up which focused on products that fostered small, online discussion groups. Mr. Miller and the rest of his team have been working on the product in its different forms for the last year, said the people briefed on the plans."
The move away from real identities and towards anonymous interaction is not something that is expected to overflow towards the main Facebook experience, but the fact that the company is aware of the need for something a little less formal proves CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his team is at least paying attention to what the outside world is asking for.
With the new app expected to launch within weeks, key details such as the signup method and whether safeguards will be in place to prevent spam and tolling are still unknown, but given Facebook’s recent attempts to launch bespoke stand-alone apps such as Slingshot, we’re not holding our breath for anything stellar this time around either.