Yik Yak, for instance, is a social media app that lets users connect anonymously. It became widely used in grade schools and even colleges, but also quickly became an app that enabled students to bully each other.
If Facebook pushes out an anonymous-based app, it's unclear how it would play with Facebook's regular site and app, as well as with Facebook-owned Instagram. Would it be a stand-alone platform or would it allow users to be active anonymously on the other sites?
"If true, this type of app or app feature really makes sense for Facebook and, as with the acquisitions of Instagram and Whatsapp, Facebook will benefit from balancing its portfolio of apps to support many different types of online and mobile socialization styles," said Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner Inc. "This is about freedom of choice to be who you want to be online, versus having to give your real or given identity. People may want to browse and interact online without being tracked — that is the heart of the issue."
While some people could use the anonymous app to bully teenagers or even co-workers, it also could be used by people who want to have online conversations about politics, sexuality, religion or health issues.
Since investment bank Piper Jaffray recently released a report showing that teenage users are abandoning Facebook at an accelerating rate, Moorhead noted that allowing anonymity on Facebook or possibly Instagram could be a way to lure some of them back.
Snapchat, a social site that has been siphoning younger users away from Facebook, allows people to send their friends photos or videos that quickly disappear.
"Facebook has been losing kids at a scary pace and I think they believe having an anonymous app will help them hold kids and get them back," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with The Enderle Group. However, he doesn't think this plan would work.
"I think that is the goal, but it is misguided," he said. "I think that, if they want kids back, they have to return to their roots and make this more about making real friends and less about making communications public."
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