On one end of the spectrum, networks like Twitter and Facebook have acted as catalysts to organizing events like the Arab Spring or the riots of London. On the other end of that spectrum, networks like Yelp or Foursquare tee up user generated reviews, tips and public-facing profiles. Somewhere in between all that falls hownow, an iPhone app-based social network that lets users publish messages semi-anonymously at a hyperlocal level.
At its core, the app allows all those who have downloaded the app to strike up semi-anonymous conversations with others at a “block” level, “Neighborhood” level, “City” level or “Worldwide” level. There is no sign-up process and though users have the option to post anonymously, they also have the option to create a pseudonym if that tickles their fancy. Betaworks says they may implement a “rules of the road” to help users take full advantage of the network at some point down the road. Messages can be left forever, for 30 days, a day or an hour at any level. (Don’t be surprised if you see local businesses take advantage of this.) Photos can also be shared via hownow and users do have the option of linking their Twitter accounts for cross-posting, too.
Made popular during the peak of the Occupy Wall Street movement, NY-based Betaworks has since acquired hownow to help bolster and fast track the company’s vision for online identity “and the growing significance and opportunities with mobile services.” The app was refreshed and re-released to the App Store last week with tweaks made under the hood and the inclusion of Google Maps. There are no plans to expand to other platforms in the near future.
If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what sort of user information is stored both locally and afar, right? According to Neil Wehrle, VP of user experience at Betaworks, the only data being stored on Betaworks end includes, “Date, Time, Location, Message Content, and an anonymous ID.” An “anonymous ID key” and a cache of the most recent messages is stored on the user’s device.