Facebook is reportedly building a standalone app that will let its users interact and communicate under the cloak of anonymity. If true, it would mark a huge departure from the company's traditional approach to connecting people; real names and identity have long been central to Facebook's model. The New York Times says this app, which has been developed under the eye of acquihire Josh Miller, would allow Facebook users to ditch their real names in favor of pseudonyms that would theoretically make them feel more comfortable discussing a range of topics with other people.
Little else about the software is known at this stage. We don't know what it will be called, or whether it's indeed meant to be a direct competitor to apps like Secret and Whisper, which are built entirely around the idea of staying anonymous. If so, getting people to trust that Facebook would maintain that wall of anonymity may be a hard sell. Facebook's track record with privacy is long and complex.
Facebook's standalone apps have also proven very hit-or-miss. It's created a massively popular service with Messenger, but the company has also produced several flops: Facebook Home is history, and two separate attempts to create a Snapchat rival have failed to catch any real momentum. But Reddit and other internet communities show that people often prefer usernames to real ones. Obviously this new app wouldn't change Facebook's overall strategy, but it could be an interesting experiment for both the company and its billion-plus users.