Vibe, the anonymous microblogging service used during the Occupy Wall Street protests in the fall, is back. The app has a new release for iPhone and, later today, Android as well. The releases are timed to the citywide Occupy Wall Street protests planned for tomorrow.
Vibe works like Twitter, but users don’t have to register their names. Instead, a message is pinned to a specific location and shown only to users within the designated radius. Vibe also allows users to set an expiration date on their messages. Activists can use the service to coordinate in real-time, creator Hazem Sayed told Betabeat, and recently it’s been discovered by users in the Middle East.
The new features should make Vibe even more appealing to protesters. “The main thing that’s been added is this idea of a double hashtag,” Mr. Sayed said. “Unlike the standard hashtag, where you put it in and it’s vis to everyone, a double hashtag makes that thread invisible. So if you do ##newyorkcity, it doesn’t show up in the public stream. The only way to find it is to search for it explicitly.”
The technology could be useful for groups of students, families traveling, and departments within a corporate building, he said. Some working groups, or committees, involved with Occupy Wall Street have been using the double hashtag feature to communicate rather than trade email addresses and phone numbers. “I consider it like a user password,” Mr. Sayed said.
The new iPhone version, which has a few more features than the new Android release, will also allow users to pin messages to remote locations that will only be visible to people at that location. “It’s like you’re sending a letter,” Mr. Sayed said.
He’s encouraging Occupy Wall Street participants to post messages that will be projected onto a screen in Bryant Park. The May 1 protest will be on a “much larger scale than at any time in Occupy Wall Street,” he said.
With the recent decision by a New York judge to uphold a subpoena of an Occupy Wall Street protester’s tweets, Vibe is more relevant than ever. “I’m more interested in the focus on Vibe being a freedom of expression tool,” Mr. Sayed said. “I won’t say focused on politics, but more privacy-robust.”
Mr. Sayed advertises Vibe as “anonymous” and “secure.” So what happens if the police subpoena Vibe’s data after the protests? “Certainly if we were served, we’d fight it to the extent that we can,” he said.
In December Mr. Sayed sold a majority of Vibe to Betaworks, which is using the technology for a less anarchist purpose. He has continued working on Vibe as a separate project.