Facebook 6.5.1 for iOS (app icon, small)

Facebook is reportedly close to releasing a brand new mobile application said to let its users communicate among themselves without using their real name or Facebook account, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Already likened to a Whisper/Secret clone, the anonymous chatting app is expected to be released in the coming weeks, according to two people briefed on Facebook’s plans.

The software would mark a notable reversal for the social networking giant, which has more than a billion active accounts and whose business policy largely revolves around encouraging its customers to use their real name to identify themselves on the service.

In a nod at ephemeral messaging services like Snapchat and Secret that provide the pseudonymity and anonymity, Facebook’s forthcoming app is said to let people use multiple pseudonyms to openly discuss topics that they feel positively about, but which they may feel uncomfortable posting using their real names.

What we don’t know just yet is whether the app will support anonymous media sharing and if the app will interact at all with Facebook’s main site or your existing friend connections.

Josh Miller, a product manager at Facebook who joined the company when it acquired Branch, is leading development of the app, the newspaper has learned from folks briefed on the plans.

Although a surprising turn of events, this stuff just doesn’t come out of blue because the social networking behemoth back in April announced Anonymous Login, a new feature for developers to support users who want to log in to mobile applications and web sites using Facebook, but without sharing any of their personal information.

Facebook Anonymous Login (image 005)

Using the new ‘Log in Anonymously’ button (pictured above), developers can basically make it ridiculously easy for users to try out their apps without handing over any information about themselves. Just like the regular Facebook Connect, the Anonymous Login feature removes the friction associated with having to remember different usernames and passwords for different apps and online services.

For all we know, the anonymous chatting app may in fact rely on the company’s Anonymous Login feature. There are other signs of Facebook possibly relaxing its policies.

Facebook Anonymous Login (image 002)

Facebook, The New York Times points out, recently caved in to demands by the vocal members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities who demand right to use the names which they have adopted, but are not their legal ones.

Facebook’s chief product officer Chris Cox responded by confirming Facebook is considering changing its policy requiring that people use their real names on the social network.

“It is possible this new app will be useful into health community discussions, according to the people briefed on the new app,” reads the report.

Related Facebook headlines today:

[The New York Times]