EXCLUSIVE : Anybeat, a Social Network for Taboo Topics, Now Open to All
If so, you might want to sign up for Anybeat, a social network that aims to become a hub of conversation about controversial subjects. The site is officially out of beta as of Monday.
Founded by Dmitry Shapiro, the former CTO of MySpace Music, Anybeat separates itself from other social networks by encouraging its members to use pseudonyms. The hope is that not using their real names will embolden users to participate in conversations they’d never have on Facebook.
“We, as humans, have different needs when it comes to socializing,” says Shapiro. “One is to communicate with people we know, and that’s Facebook. But we need a place to get away from family and friends, and a place to get away from work, a place to socialize with people we don’t know. We want to create an open social place that’s inclusive.”
That sounds good in theory, though anyone who’s ever skimmed the comments on a YouTube video is familiar with how anonymous discussions can get ugly quickly. Shapiro emphasizes that what Anybeat is really offering is “pseudonymity,” which is subtly different from anonymity.
While a user’s real name is hidden, his or her profile name stays consistent, and reputations are created over time.
“YouTube is less of a social network,” Shapiro says. “A lot of it is culture. If [ignorant comments] are what you see, then that’s what it becomes. For us, every profile has ‘Cred’–it’s like a Klout score, or feedback on eBay. And we have moderation tools in place, like you’d find in the old BBS days.”
What sort of content would be off limits to a social network that prides itself on controversy? Shapiro says hate speech, threats, and porn would all make the list.
As Facebook and Google+ have risen in popularity, so have their real-name policies, leading the Web to move away from the anything-goes anonymity of decades past. Shapiro believes a total loss of online anonymity would be a bad thing.
“I think pseudonimity, using the Internet for casual conversations and not just formal ones, is critical.” he says. “It was the reason I fell in love with the Web: AOL chatrooms. I found the conversations I had there to be extremely meaningful. If you ever had a conversation with a stranger and you found that the stranger might have understood you in a way that your closest friends didn’t, that’s what we’re trying to facilitate.”