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Freak flags fly at Anybeat, a pseudonymous social network

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“It’s like Facebook but with pseudonyms.”

That’s a claim social-Web users have heard before, and they have yet to take the bait. After all, neither Tumblr nor Reddit require your real name. Why would anyone need to switch to a new, no-name competitor?

Anybeat predicted your skepticism. Instead, the new social network incentivizes uninhibited, controversial, and taboo conversations.

“Because we don’t ask you to disclose your true identity, you can be totally free in your communication,” said Dmitry Shapiro, the site’s founder and CEO, in a video about Anybeat.

Shapiro, who previously founded MySpace Music, doesn’t use a pseudonym himself on Anybeat. His profile is right here.

The Anybeat site resembles Facebook uncannily, with a dominant news feed function. Users may even sign up for Anybeat with a Facebook account. The difference is that the interface highly encourages users to choose a pseudonym over their real name—by not providing a field for name entry.

Once inside, users can chat, friend, and mention other anonymous users. Surprisingly, this environment doesn’t lend itself to trolling. That’s because Anybeat ranks users by “cred,” a unit of measurement similar to Reddit karma or a Klout score. Users gain cred by staying active and making friends.

After the user profile is set up, it’s time to hit the Public Square. This is the heart of Anybeat, a portal to every controversial topic users can think up. Right now, some hot topics include “Is there Salvation?” and “Is social interaction on the Internet a good idea?” Users can also submit personal questions to the wisdom of the group, just like on Ask Reddit.

Anybeat launched in September and currently has several thousand users. It’s a small but active community, since the lure of more cred encourages interactivity. Within minutes of joining, this reporter had two friend requests, a chat invite, and 13 comments on her status update, most of which were praising the site.

The catch? I’ll never know who any of those people really are.