Short, Sweet And In Stealth Mode: Quip Is The Name Of Ex-Facebook CTO Bret Taylor’s Next Project

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When Bret Taylor announced last June that he would be leaving his role as CTO of Facebook to work on a startup with another ex-Googler, Kevin Gibbs, little else was divulged about what that project would be – except, as he told AllThingsD, that it might cover an area he does not understand well as a consumer, a little like, you know, when he helped create Google Maps. Today, a little more news began to seep out: the startup appears to be called “Quip”; Taylor started to redirect his backchannel.org site to the quip.com domain, but with invitation-only, restricted access; and there is some quiet talent recruitment taking place.

We heard about Quip earlier today, and while we were trying to get through to Taylor to ask more, it seems that Business Insider heard about it, too. Now Taylor has responded to us — essentially, to note that the buck stops here for now:

“We aren’t releasing anything and aren’t yet talking about what we are working on,” he wrote in an email. “I will be happy to talk when we are, though.”

And for good measure, he’s now closed that little backchannel.org loophole that redirects it to quip.com, and backchannel.org has been taken offline altogether.

backchannel.org not found

Before the quip.com redirect disappeared, a Google apps login screen noted that Quip requested permission to view your email address, view basic account information, and manage your contacts. But as we note above, access to this was restricted.

BI notes some other details that it has found on quip.com:

  • It appears the quip.com domain changed ownership December 7 of this year.
  • Quip has quietly registered on Twitter.
  • An iPad app by the same name was rebranded to Tweetglass back in July because a European entity was claiming trademark infringement. But as BI points out this might be unrelated to Quip.com.
  • Quip’s icon is a Q with a pen for the tail and a paper for the main o-shape — possibility that this means some kind of creating/writing app.

quip.com icon

 

And here are the additional details I found:

  • It appears that the Quip had a mini frenzy of activity this month. In addition to the domain switch, the @quip Twitter handle was only created on December 13.
  • Between domain and Twitter registration, it seems that backchannel.org might have already started redirecting, attracting a little attention in the process.
  • In addition to Bret Taylor and Kevin Gibbs, there is some impressive talent recruitment going on. Among the new hires, I’ve heard that Matt Cahill may also be involved. Cahill past roles include product designer at Facebook, and then lead product designer at Airtime.

As for what Quip itself might be, there are still no clues. Quips, as you know, are funny, short, witty remarks, often responses. It’s tempting to think that Taylor, who had co-founded the social network aggregator FriendFeed before it was sold to Facebook, and Gibbs, who had been the creator of Google’s (rather cool if eerily accurate) Suggest search feature and its App Engine service, might be thinking of something social, semantic/suggestive and cloud-based for Quip.

There is also the question of whether Taylor’s taste for mobile, and specifically HTML5, will feature here.

And as for Taylor’s earlier comment about addressing areas that he, as a consumer, doesn’t understad well today: Startups that try to answer questions or solve problems that have yet to be tackled, in areas that have yet to be disrupted, seem to be cropping up with increasing frequency. Spearheaded by the likes of Uber for cars and Airbnb for accommodation, it’s an ideal being held up as well by newer players like Urban Compass (another stealth startup founded by superstars) — and, for all we know, Quip, too.

Update: a search in the USPTO database for Quip (h/t @braysonware) revealed some general details without giving too much away: It is indeed registered to Backchannel, Inc. and will have to do with collaboration and cloud-based mobile software.

IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: Computer software; computer software for mobile devices; computer software to enhance personal productivity and facilitate collaboration; computer software for use with mobile devices to enhance personal productivity and facilitate collaboration; computer software that enables individuals at different locations to work on, modify, comment on, update information, documents, and databases in real time from remote locations; computer software for use with mobile devices that enables individuals at different locations to work on, modify, comment on, update information, documents, and databases in real time from remote locations
IC 042. US 100 101. G & S: Providing temporary use of online non-downloadable computer software; providing temporary use of non-downloadable computer software for mobile devices; providing temporary use of non-downloadable computer software to enhance personal productivity and facilitate collaboration; providing temporary use of non-downloadable computer software for use with mobile devices to enhance personal productivity and facilitate collaboration; providing temporary use of non-downloadable computer software that enables individuals at different locations to work on, modify, comment on, update information, documents, and databases in real time from remote locations; providing temporary use of non-downloadable computer software for use with mobile devices that enables individuals at different locations to work on, modify, comment on, update information, documents, and databases in real time from remote locations