Facebook bought tbh, an anonymous polling app US teens are obsessed with

Positivity first.
Positivity first.
Image: courtesy of tbh
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Facebook has acquired a two-month-old app called tbh—as in “to be honest”—which lets people send each other positive feedback through anonymous, quiz-style polls. The app is geared toward teenagers, and has been a viral hit in the US.

The company says in recent weeks the app passed 5 million downloads, and its users have sent over 1 billion messages so far. According to TechCrunch, Facebook paid “under $100 million” for the startup. Tbh co-founders, Nikita Bier, Erik Hazzard, Kyle Zaragoza, and Nicolas Ducdodon, will move to Facebook’s headquarters, and continue working on the app, Business Insider reported. 

Tbh lets you create surveys and send them anonymously to your friends. In them, the company notes on its website, you can pose queries such as the classic US school-yearbook question “Who is most likely to be president?” but also many others, some a bit more creative (like “Too lit to be legit”). You can create your own poll, but you have to submit it for review by the tbh team before you can send it out. The more people that pick you as an answer to poll questions, the more questions you get to unlock and send out.

The app emphasizes positivity. In a statement about the acquisition, the startup says “we wanted to create a community that made us feel happier and more confident about ourselves.” Tellingly, it also notes:

While the last decade of the Internet has been focused on open communication, the next milestone will be around meeting people’s emotional needs…. 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.

This echoes Facebook’s new mission statement, unveiled earlier this year. While Mark Zuckerberg used to say the company’s mission was all about making the world more open and connected, it recently became about giving “people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Facebook’s statement about the acquisition, sent to Quartz, repeated the community-building wording of the mission statement as a “common goal” of the two companies.

Expanding its already gargantuan reach

In the past few years, Facebook has been relentless about acquiring whatever is the latest audience destination. It already owns three of the five largest online communities in the world: its own network, WhatsApp, and Instagram. The social media giant uses its massive reach, and works with companies like analytics firm Onavo, to track users’ every move, as well as emerging product trends, giving it insight into where audiences are heading next.

That led to the acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, both of which were seeing rapid audience growth leading up to their purchase. At the time, critics slammed those purchases as outrageous given their still small audience, lack of revenue, and unproven track record. In hindsight, those all look prescient. A few billion dollars here and there to ensure Facebook’s dominance won’t be tested is a bargain for a $507 billion company that continues to mint money by adding users, year after year.

With Facebook counting about a quarter of the world’s population among its users, it shows no signs of stopping.