Facebook Product Manager Josh Miller Responds to Report on Anonymous App

By David Cohen 

QuestionMarkWoman650While Facebook has stuck with its policy of requiring its users’ real names, co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned in a January cover story for Bloomberg Businessweek that the social network would not require real names for the separate, stand-alone applications it was developing. Evidence of this policy shift may rear its head in the next few weeks, according to The New York TimesBits blog.

Bits reported that two people familiar with Facebook’s plans said the social network will release a stand-alone mobile app in the coming weeks, telling Bits the goal was to allow Facebook users to openly discuss subjects they might not be comfortable addressing while using their real names.

According to Bits, Facebook product manager Josh Miller is spearheading the project, and Miller and his team have been working on it for the past year. Miller was CEO of link-sharing service Branch when it was acquired by Facebook in January, along with its sister service, Potluck.

At the time of the acquisition, Miller wrote in a Facebook post:

We will be forming Facebook’s Conversations group, based in New York City, with the goal of helping people connect with others around their interests. Their pitch to us was: “Build Branch at Facebook scale!”

UPDATED: Miller responded to the Bits report with a series of tweets Wednesday evening and Thursday morning (unedited):

  • First tweet: I hope people know the @branch crew wouldn’t build a clone of anything. Can’t comment on rumors but can’t wait to show you what we’ve built.
  • Second tweet: 1/ Anonymous Apps: Identity isn’t a product goal. Focus should be on what human desire you want to enable, not anonymity as the focal point.
  • Third tweet: 2/ Anonymous Apps: Even then, it’s very hard to build retentive communities without “regulars”. You need some sort of recurring identity.
  • Fourth tweet: 3/ Anonymous Apps: Also, anonymous w friends + anonymous w schools breeds gossip. Can encourage positive use cases through product design.
  • Fifth tweet: 5/ Anonymous Apps: Would be happy to talk to anyone about this when I’m in SF + NYC next (v soon) @kevinroose @ajs @MikeIsaac @JoshConstine


Zuckerberg said in the Bloomberg Businessweek interview:

I don’t know if the balance has swung too far, but I definitely think we’re at the point where we don’t need to keep on only doing real identity things. If you’re always under the pressure of real identity, I think that is somewhat of a burden. It’s definitely, I think, a little bit more balanced now 10 years later. I think that’s good.

Readers: What do you think of Facebook’s reported plans to launch an anonymous app?


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