It’s the classic good news/bad news situation for Twitter. The good news: It’s looking less likely that the company is going to face accusations that its platform is being used by activists such as the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters to organize, and therefore face legal action as a result. The bad news: It’s because activists seem to be moving onto an entirely new messaging system altogether.
The new system in question is called Vibe, according to the New York Daily News, and it was built as an intentionally-anonymous alternative to Twitter by developer Hazem Sayed. The app allows users to share messages with users within certain distances—160 feet to worldwide—that will be automatically deleted within a set amount of time that they control, from 15 minutes to 30 days.
(PHOTOS: Occupy Wall Street)
According to Sayed, Vibe may be perfect for activists and protesters, but it came from a very different intent: “It seems to have a use case in a gathering like this, but initially it was designed for students and colleges, for people at outdoor events at the park [or other events where you could post] the kind of things you wouldn’t post on Twitter, because it wouldn’t make sense to your followers – it’s very local.” The anonymity is important, he says, as a reaction to other social media: “The Internet, when it started, had this promise of anonymity. That’s largely lost because almost everything is now connected to Facebook or Twitter – even magazines and newspapers and websites use that as a mechanism to sign-in in order to leave comments.”
That anonymity is perfect for protesters, of course; the Daily News quotes an Occupy Wall Street activist, Drew Hornbein, as saying “Let’s say you’re protesting and someone up ahead sees that the cops are getting ready to kettle people, they can set out this vibe that only lasts a few minutes that says, ‘Cops are kettling’… It’s anonymous too, so not only are you able to send out relevant information to a small radius, but it also disappears, there’s no record of it, so no one can come after the person who sent it.”
The more popular Vibe gets, however, the more scrutiny it’s likely to come under by the authorities. We’ll see just how long it remains truly anonymous…
Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.