Facebook Is About to Let You Go Anonymous for the First Time

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Jan. 31 2014 12:39 PM

Facebook Is About to Let You Go Anonymous for the First Time

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"We don’t need to keep on only doing real identity things," Mark Zuckerberg told Bloomberg Businessweek.

Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for FilmDistrict

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

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From the very beginning, Facebook has stood for two things: Permanence and identity. Permanence, meaning everything a user does, says or posts on Facebook is recorded and never erased. Facebook is like a digital journal of your life. Memories and photos will greet you every time you log in.

Identity is also a big part of Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg realized ten years ago that by tying individuals to their school email addresses, you could bring offline relationships online. Facebook is now like a passport to the Internet, giving people credibility whenever they sign on to a partnering website or comment on a friend's post.

Startups that have decided to take the opposite approach and focus on ephemerality and anonymity have excelled. Snapchat promises users that nothing they send on its network will be saved or come back to haunt them later. Whisper and Rumr are apps that allow users to post secrets anonymously. Whisper is producing about 3 billion pageviews per month.

Facebook already tried to come after Snapchat, first with its copy-cat app Poke. Then Facebook reportedly made Snapchat a $3 billion acquisition offer which was declined.

Whisper CEO Michael Heyward tells Business Insider he's never met Mark Zuckerberg, but his app—or at least what his app stands for—may be on the Facebook CEO's radar.

Bloomberg Businessweek recently wrote about Facebook's 10-year history and future plans. The author, Brad Stone, says Facebook's next move might be to launch a suite of apps that let users lack an identity altogether.

From Bloomberg Businessweek:

One thing about some of the new apps that will come as a shock to anyone familiar with Facebook: Users will be able to log in anonymously. That’s a big change for Zuckerberg, who once told David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect, that "having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity."
Former Facebook employees say identity and anonymity have always been topics of heated debate in the company.

Zuckerberg justified his change of heart to Stone: "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."

Alyson Shontell is a senior reporter at Business Insider. Follow her on Twitter.

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