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US: Facebook buys TBH, an anonymous polling app

 |  October 17, 2017

Facebook has acquired TBH, an app that allows teens to send anonymous compliments to each other. The cost has not been announced, but is reportedly less than $100 million.

The app, launched this summer in 37 US states only, has received more than five million downloads in a short space of time, thanks to its unique twist on the anonymous-messaging model of previous viral hits such as Secret, YikYak and Sarahah.

Users of the app are shown a positive question, asking them who “makes you laugh the hardest” or “has the most integrity”, along with a selection of four of their Facebook friends. The person they select as the answer is told that they were given the compliment, but not by who.

The model allows for the same sort of pleasant interaction with friends that previous anonymous messaging apps have enabled at their best moments, receiving nice messages from people who might be too embarrassed to say the same in person – as well as enabling a fair amount of anonymous flirting.

But it avoids the downside of many of its competitors, which is their capacity for anonymous bullying. By forcing users to only communicate through pre-checked questions, the app can keep things positive.

It seems to have worked: in a statement posted to the company’s website, TBH said that more than 1 billion messages had been sent since it launched.

At least for the moment, the acquisition won’t change how TBH works. Similar to Instagram and WhatsApp, Facebook is leaving the app to run largely unaltered, with the same staff now operating from its Menlo Park headquarters.

“When we met with Facebook, we realised that we shared many of the same core values about connecting people through positive interactions,” TBH said in its statement. “Most of all, we were compelled by the ways they could help us realise TBH’s vision and bring it to more people.”

In a twist to the story, Matt Stoller, who was part of Barry Lynn’s team at Google-funded think-tank New America, tweeted: “Facebook is buying a competitor that undercuts its data-harvesting business model. FTC should block this merger.”

Full Content: Wall Street Journal

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