Most of us would probably agree that social networking is reaching its limits. Between social network fatigue and the increasing multiplication of niche social networks (I’ve seen announcements of at least three different networks for dogs and their owners recently), this particular corner of the web is threatening to go beyond maturity to self-parody any day now. That’s why I perked up a bit when I ran across Hikkup, a new service that keeps the networking but loses the social part.
The idea behind Hikkup is to enable anonymous conversations on the web. You use their web site to enter a conversation starter (they suggest things like “How do I handle my love life?” or “Would you steal if you wouldn’t get caught?”) and choose from a variety of methods to send it out to a list of people: e-mail, instant messages, MySpace widget, or just through a link that you can paste anywhere you want. If you use one of their broadcasters, you can be anonymous yourself; in any case, the respondents can post answers anonymously through the Hikkup web site, which tracks the whole as a threaded conversation and offers e-mail notification of replies to anyone who’s interested.
As it’s being presented, Hikkup is aimed at very frothy conversations; their tagline is “Ask questions and get anonymous answers about dating, love, relationships, friendship, style and more.” But given how simple it is to set up an anonymous conversation here, it might also have a more serious use as a way for web workers to conduct market research and get customer feedback. For the cost of a moment of setup and a pasted link, you could ask visitors anything from “what do you think of the new color scheme?” to “are we wasting your time with too many conference calls?” and get anonymous feedback.