Startup brings juicy gossip to Facebook

If you live with a teenager, probably the last thing you think they need is another way to gossip about their friends. But that’s what the developers of Gosspiz! plan to offer them in the form of a new Facebook app.

The inspiration for the app struck co-founder Mark Gelman when he was talking to his niece about Facebook. She was lamenting that among all the apps available on Facebook, none of them let her post things anonymously. Another Q&A site, Formspring, allows users to post anonymously and why not have that capability in Facebook?

Seeing untapped potential for the legions of teens already using Facebook to gab endlessly about the social lives of their friends, Gelman got to work.

Gossipz’s entry into The $1,000 Minute.

“It’s hacking the social graph,” says the startup co-founder. “We know teenagers have this ability to spread gossip, but they never had it inside Facebook because it’s not anonymous.”

So with co-founders Anatoly Dobrovinsky, Anton Belov and Viktor Liouti, the Gossipz team formed in July and started building a J2EE platform for the app. Now working out of the Incubes incubator in Toronto, there is a beta version of the app live on Facebook and a full launch is planned, complete with party, for Feb. 14.

Users first choose who they’d like to write gossip about, and then they can enter the information they choose. There’s a “teaser” that everyone can see, but only the Facebook friends chosen by the creator of the gossip item will be able to read the full message. While the poster remain anonymous, the person the gossip is about is notified by a wall post.

Other users who can see the teaser but not all the juicy details can make a request to gain access, controlled by the creator of the gossip. Everyone can vote on whether the gossip is true or not, and the startup has included a paid-for premium feature where users can see who else has read the gossip for nine Facebook credits, or about $1.

“When we talk to teens about this, they are all excited,” Dobrovinsky says. “Kids are not adults, so what we like and what they like are actually complete opposites.”

Given that teens often use gossip as a tool for bullying, the startup has built the app with community moderation tools in place. Posts can be flagged as abusive, and moderators can see who has been violating the terms and conditions of the community standards and ban those users. The tool is meant to be fun, Gelman says.

“If someone feels their privacy has been violated, there’s a simple way to report it,” he says. “Repeat offenders will be banned.”

The app also has an algorithm that is designed to automate some moderation efforts. Users writing profane language could be warned automatically, for example.

Gossipz feels this app will be the first of many based on the platform they’ve created. It could be the basis for mobile apps too, Dobrovinsky says. “This is the first baby of the platform, but we’ll be looking to build more apps on this.”

Brian JacksonBrian Jackson is the Associate Editor at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.
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