Facebook acquires TBH, an anonymous teen compliment app

Tuesday , October 17, 2017 - 1:41 PM

Hamza Shaban

(c) 2017, The Washington Post.

TBH, a mobile app that lets high school and college students compliment one another anonymously has been acquired by Facebook, the company announced Monday.

The app, which is available on iOS devices, has been around only since August, in some states, but its popularity has ballooned. TBH counts more than 5 million users who have sent one another more than 1 billion messages, according to the company. It’s the No. 1 free app on the iTunes charts - ahead of YouTube, Snapchat and Instragram.

TBH’s sudden rise was enough to grab Facebook’s attention (and money). But what is TBH and how does it work?

TBH, short for “to be honest,” prompts users to answer polls about people they know, after they are forced to give the app access to their contacts. The polls come in bundles of 15 questions, and users select the person they have in mind from four choices. The questions cover such things as notes of affection (“I will marry them”), straightforward compliments (“Freckles on fleek”), endorsements and sarcasm (“Would drive to your house and wake you up to tell you who finally texted back”).

In turn, when friends pick you as an answer, you get an anonymous notification that includes the question, so you can see what other people think of you.

Although users can submit their own poll questions, TBH says it reviews those entries and accepts only submissions that are uplifting, not offensive, appropriate for people ages 13 and older, and that are funny or interesting.

Anyone older than 13 can use the app, but TBH targets teens and their social networks, asking first-time users to select their high school grade and to identify their school or college.

A spokeswoman for Facebook said that the social network is not disclosing the terms of the deal, but TBH’s millennial co-creators - Nikita Bier, Erik Hazzard, Kyle Zaragoza and Nicolas Ducdodon - will become Facebook employees, based at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, and will continue to work on TBH.

As with its purchase of Instagram, which has recently mimicked several of competitor Snapchat’s features, Facebook appears intent on capturing the new ways that young people are communicating online. Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp were attempts to connect with younger users, who have been drawn to alternative social networks. TBH’s insistence on positivity - and its social interactions that hinge not only on creating permanent, searchable, self-identifying posts, but also on offering anonymous compliments - may also play into Facebook’s latest mission to build a sense of community.

Perhaps most clearly, TBH is yet another channel where Facebook can command the time and attention of young people. The acquisition also eliminates a nascent competitor.

“While the last decade of the Internet has been focused on open communication, the next milestone will be around meeting people’s emotional needs,” TBH wrote in a statement Monday. “When we met with Facebook, we realized that we shared many of the same core values about connecting people through positive interactions. Most of all, we were compelled by the ways they could help us realize tbh’s vision and bring it to more people.”

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