Facebook is reportedly preparing to introduce a standalone mobile app that would allow users to interact with each other without disclosing their real names.
The company is planning to launch the app in the coming weeks, according to a report by the New York Times published Tuesday. The paper says it got the information from two people who had been informed of Facebook's plans, and who spoke with the Times on the condition of anonymity.
The new app would apparently provide a platform for open discussion of topics that users may not be comfortable discussing unless they can be anonymous, the report said. It is not clear whether or how the app may interact with Facebook's main site, or whether it will allow features like photo sharing.
Word of the possible expansion into anonymous communications came not long after Facebook faced criticism for its "real name" policy from the transgender community. The company apologized for deleting a number of accounts set up under drag names like Lil Miss Hot Mess rather than people's legal names. In response to the outrage, Chris Cox, Facebook's vice president for product, wrote in a statement that the spirit of Facebook's policy allowed a user to operate their account under " the authentic name they use in real life," even if their birth certificate lists something else.
"We believe this is the right policy for Facebook for two reasons," Cox explained. "First, it's part of what made Facebook special in the first place, by differentiating the service from the rest of the internet where pseudonymity, anonymity, or often random names were the social norm. Second, it's the primary mechanism we have to protect millions of people every day, all around the world, from real harm."
According to the Times, the new, anonymous app is being developed under the leadership of Josh Miller, a product manager at Facebook who joined Zuckerberg's company after it acquired Branch, Miller's start-up that facilitated forming small, online discussion groups.