Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY
VENICE BEACH - For three years, millions of folks around the globe have used the Ask.fm website to pose anonymous questions to random people, mostly concerning their love life.
This past summer, a newly released Ask.fm app has become one of most trending on the download charts. The app is controversial, especially with parents, due to the anonymity of the answers, which can lead to bullying. Yet teens love it. It was one of the most downloaded apps of the summer.
"It's fun when you want to ask a personal question and don't want to ask them to their face," says Molly, 19, from Phoenix, who didn't want to reveal her last name. "You can hide behind your keyboard."
Kyle Kizu of Los Angeles uses the app often, to meet young women. "There have been some anonymous girls that have talked to me on there. They told me they had a crush on me and, 'I think you're cute.' That's fun."
Ask.fm is based in Riga, Latvia, where it sees over 200 million folks around the globe using it monthly. Some 300,000 new registrations come in every day, says Mark Terebin, a co-founder of Ask.fm.
How it works: Download the app (free for Apple and Android), link it to your Facebook profile, and look for friends who use the service. You can then post questions anonymously or publicly.
Ask.fm makes money from ads, while a premium 99 cent version of the app allows for video responses to questions.
Overseas press have roasted Ask.fm, linking it to bullying. The British Daily Mail called it "sinister," while several overseas publications linked it to teen suicides in response to mean anonymous comments. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, there are no privacy controls.
Reagan Straeb's mother made her stop using Ask.fm when she saw how mean the blind comments were. "It's a lot of crap teens don't need to be listening to," says Straeb, of Florida.
Gianna Panaro, of Las Vegas says she often receives compliments on Ask.fm, but other times comments are "sexual ... or weird. A lot of times they're rude."
Terebin has no apologies for the blind questions and answers.
"Anonymity is a key feature here, and we can see that users enjoy it a lot," he writes, via e-mail.
To parental concern, he notes: "Of course, parents wants their children to sit and do the math homework instead of Ask.fm, but we believe that we provide a new way of communication that is very different from other social networks. We are working hard to make Ask.fm a safe place for our users. That is why we have more than 60 moderators to keep our users away from bad content."
We asked Terebin a simple question, but he punted. What does the FM stand for in the company name? "Www.ask.fm is just a great sounding domain," he says. "It's all about asking."