Mark Zuckerberg believes a person’s online profile should be an extension of their offline one.
Brandon Burns isn’t so sure.
The former advertising creative director developed Star-67.com as a “content laundering platform.”
The site – named for the code that allows a caller to block his or her phone number – lets anyone quickly and simply send an anonymous email.
It’s an idea that is simultaneously troubling and potentially revolutionary.
First, the concerning part: There’s a reason websites are drifting towards requiring people to use their true identities. Anonymous commenting sections are often cesspools where the lowest common denominator races to the surface. Intelligent conversation or useful information is buried or nonexistent.
Star-67.com (currently in alpha mode but open to any and all users) will have those problems as well. That goes with the anonymous territory. (The site does have self-policing mechanisms, but that seems rather silly given the anonymous nature of the whole thing.)
But the site can also be a powerful tool because anonymity allows people to offer the unvarnished truth. Burns notes that peer reviews are conducted without names for this exact reason. And he has a point.
Pretend you know a coworker is going to be fired. You want him to be prepared but don’t want to tell him in person. Enter Star-67.com.
There is, of course, potential for misuse, mischief, and downright lying, but the ability for the person who gets the message to respond and have a conversation provides a way for him or her to get more information, to vet the sender in a way.
Burns sees other uses for his site as well. For one, people or companies can solicit anonymous feedback. (Part of the business model revolves around brands paying for this service.) A third element is sniffing out hidden nuggets of information. Say you and your friends are all liberal but you support Jon Huntsman for President. You can send an anonymous message to as many people as you want, asking if anyone feels the same way. Your secret is safe.
The final way Burns envisions people using Star-67.com is as a discussion forum. Messages can be publicly displayed on the site, so a group can have anonymous conversations about taboo or risque topics. Again, the potential for misuse or filth is huge, but this can also provide an important service. Plus, the founder believes the setup of the service will keep it cleaner (or, perhaps more accurately, cleaner).
“It’s all very content based so people are really coalescing around issues instead of random stuff,” Burns says.
In the end, anonymity is scary and powerful. But the Internet needs ways to make information anonymous. Certainly not all the time, maybe not even most of the time – the value of having our statements linked to our Facebook profiles is immense because it keeps us honest – but there is a place for Star-67.com. You never know what important note will show up in your inbox.