Facebook buys tbh – a positive app for teens
“Kids can be cruel” is not just a fundamental truism recognised by anyone who has ever been a child before. It could practically be the tagline of many anonymous apps, such as Yik Yak and Secret, which allow their users to leave messages about others without consequence. Not so tbh, which launched in August with the aim to put the positivity in anonymity – and has been richly rewarded with a buyout from Facebook just two months later.
How do you legislate for many children’s’ natural tendency to be pintsized jerks? Tbh’s product is a series of polls about classmates with only positive answers. For example, the app might ask “Who is the most creative?”, “Who is most likely to be on Saturday Night Live?” or “Their perseverance is admirable?” Okay, the last one is a little bit of a backhanded compliment, but the point is that the app deliberately avoids making itself a potential tool for cyberbullying.
And that fits nicely in with Facebook’s newly found ambition of strengthening communities, suddenly found in the wake of widespread criticism. That, combined with the low acquisition price – not confirmed, but rumoured to be under $100 million (~£75 million) – would explain the company moving so quickly to purchase. Yes, they could have made their own version of the app, but when you’re Facebook’s size, dropping $100 million or so is like dropping a penny to you or I. Can you really be bothered to crawl under the sofa to retrieve it?
Tbh is growing quickly too. Since launching in a handful of US states in August, tbh has been downloaded 5 million times and racked up 2.5 million daily active users. More than one billion people have answered anonymous questions about their peers, so the formula seems to be working.
But with a team of just four people, it’s unsurprising that tbh has jumped aboard the Facebook mothership – especially when TechCrunch reports that the team were just 60 days shy of depleting their cash resources when they launched tbh on the back of a series of less successful ventures.
“When we met with Facebook, we realised that we shared many of the same core values about connecting people through positive interactions,” wrote the tbh founders in a blog post announcing the deal. “Most of all, we were compelled by the ways they could help us realise tbh’s vision and bring it to more people.”
Given it’s currently running in just 35 states without an Android version, at the very least Facebook’s massive resources should ensure that modest goal is comfortably met.