Facebook snaps up Oakland-based viral app for teenagers 2 months after it launches
Facebook this week bought up a tiny Oakland startup whose anonymous polling app, TBH, caught fire with teenagers shortly after launching in August, rocketing to 5 million users in a little over two months. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The app launched at a single high school in Georgia on Aug. 3. Before the end of the week, TBH had spread to more than 3,000 schools across the state. For weeks, it’s been the most-downloaded free app on iTunes.
The app asks teenagers to import a list of their friends, and then anonymously vote on specific questions, like “World’s best party planner?” or “Who makes you laugh the hardest?” Teens get notified when they’re nominated, leading to the app’s rapid growth.
All of the questions inside the app are designed to be positive, setting TBH apart from more caustic anonymous apps, like Yik Yak, which shut down earlier this year.
“When we set out to build TBH, we wanted to create a community that made us feel happier and more confident about ourselves,” the founders wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition. “We felt that people craved genuine and positive interactions in their online experiences. While the last decade of the Internet has been focused on open communication, the next milestone will be around meeting people’s emotional needs.”
The idea apparently resonated inside Facebook, which has been desperate to buy or copy apps popular with young people.
Today’s 16-year-old high school sophomore was a toddler when Facebook launched in 2004. For many high schoolers, Facebook is the place where their parents and grandparents post family photos, argue about politics and overshare their lives.
Apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Yik Yak and TBH offer teens a more private platform to connect. On Instagram, for example, some teens maintain private, so-called “finsta” accounts, where they share genuine, sometimes embarrassing photos with their closest friends. That runs counter to the way most people use Instagram — posting carefully edited and curated photos with popular hashtags, in hopes of showing off an idealized version of their lives for public consumption.
The app’s founders say TBH will continue running after the acquisition. The company raised a seed round earlier this year from a small group of investors, and lists just four employees on LinkedIn.