Back during the heyday of #OccupyWallStreet in New York City (before winter dispersed most of the protestors there), an iPhone app called Vibe became popular among that community. It allows people to post messages, photos, and videos within a geo-fenced radius—everything from a “whisper” (visible only to people within 165 feet) to a “bellow” (visible worldwide). The messages can be set to expire and users can post with a pseudonym or link the app to their Twitter account. Other users can respond to create a threaded conversation.
Vibe is the creation of Hazem Sayed, and his two-person startup was acquired by betaworks last December. Betaworks never announced the deal, but I’ve been able to confirm it. Sayed and at least one other person who worked on Vibe now work at betaworks. The deal was likely in the low six figures, with betaworks now owning a majority of Vibe.
The Vibe app is intriguing. Local, pseudonymous communications on your mobile device can be very compelling in the right contexts. But the Vibe app needs some work. For one thing, if you want to see all the “vibes” pinned to a map, you have to download a separate app also created by Sayed called AskLocal. I suspect betaworks is throwing additional engineers at Vibe to improve it beyond its basic concept.
Pseudonyms in social networks are coming back in vogue, and they make particular sense for apps used by protestors. There is a culture of pseudonymity on the web which lets some people open up more than they would otherwise. And being able to shout out to people around you through your mobile phone is something that could become appealing to people other than protestors. I could see the app becoming popular at concerts, sporting events, or even just as a way to pin messages about local stores and restaurants.