Facebook is working on a standalone messaging app that will allow users to remain anonymous, according to a report in The New York Times.
Sources said the app will allow people to communicate with each other without using their real names, contrary to the approach Facebook has pursued until now, in which user identities are a key element.
The idea is to allow Facebook users to use multiple pseudonyms to discuss things openly that they might not want connected to their real names. The sources said the new app, which is expected to emerge in the next few weeks, could be useful in contexts where the use of real names is not beneficial.
It is not known whether the new app will interact with the main Facebook service and if and how it will allow anonymous photo sharing.
There is also a question mark about how Facebook can protect users from spammers or trolls who may exploit the anonymous nature of the service.
It is believed the project is led by Josh Miller, a product manager who joined Facebook when the company acquired his start-up, Branch, which focused on products that create small, online discussion groups.
Anonymous messaging apps Secret and Whisper have found some success due to their lack of requirement for real names to be used.
According to The New York Times, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously said the company would allow developers to use an anonymous log-in feature on third party apps. This would allow consumers to try different apps using a Facebook login, but limit what information they hand over by doing so.
The news of the anonymous app follows Facebook saying it will amend its real name policy in the future to allow people to identify themselves by adopted names.