Can You Keep a Secret? This App Hopes Not

Attention liars, cheaters, degenerates, squealers, and all around terrible people: the Secret app would like to hear from you.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Attention liars, cheaters, degenerates, squealers, and all around terrible people: the Secret app would like to hear from you.

The brainchild of two former Google engineers, David Byttow and Chrys Bader-Wechseler, the app offers users the ability to anonymously and digitally air their dirty laundry. Currently only available for iOS, the user downloads it, enters their phone number, and can begin scrolling through secrets posted by friends, users nearby, and the popular posts of strangers around the country.  After verifying their phone number and email, they can also post their own secrets, as well as like and comment on the secrets of others. The result is an anonymous community of primarily San Francisco and New York users, spilling their digital guts.

Secret joins several apps of this kind, mainly Whisper and Yik Yak, all vying for your deepest, darkest secrets. Whisper offers private messaging and search by topic, password protection for your secrets, and secrets organized by popularity, location and ‘features’. Yik Yak uses the Reddit formula of voting posts up or down, as well as a ‘Hot’ list and nearby Yaks.

Secret is sleeker, and less cluttered. The search option is absent—secrets simply appear, scrolling endless in a Tumblr style format. The anonymity also has a twist —if a secret is posted by someone in your phone’s contact list, it’ll say “Friend.” Other posts note “Friend of Friend." That little clue means you can speculate on who has written the post. There is no messaging, or user name. Commenters are given an emoji style avatar: rockets, jack o lanterns, owls, robots, ice cream cones, etc. It changes for every secret the user comments on. The owner of the secret always appears as a blue crown in the comment section. This allows basic communication between users in the comments section, but in a far more anonymous, public forum than the Whisper private messaging.

While other social apps are looking to collect every single ounce of your personal information, here’s looking at you Facebook, a new digital market is looking to preserve anonymity. This breed of anonymity is not without consequence. Whisper employs 120 moderators, responsible for going through thousands of posts in real time, with the hope of turning those posts into actual, useable news.

While Whisper has a wider audience — primarily high school and college age users — Secret has cornered the tech community. Their secrets are juicier, often attacking startup founders, tech executives, and venture capitalists.

Marc Andreessen questioned the ethics of anonymity, and believes that Secret is “designed to encourage negative behavior, tearing people down, making fellow souls sad." CEO David Byttow shrugged off the criticism that the app is a vehicle for bullying, remarking at SXSW that “we don’t see very much of that, if any." If you type a secret that seems defamatory or rude, the app will give you a warning: “defamatory, offensive, or mean-spirited [secrets] are against the community guidelines and can be flagged/removed”. While Secret may not have Whisper’s staff of moderators, they feel confident that e-bullying cannot, and will not, overtake their app.

So is it really anonymous? No. It is anonymous-ish. "Anonymish"? (Not all the new apps jumping on this craze are as private as they would like you to believe.) There is a mobile number and an email address attached to your account, and the app will not work without this information. If panic strikes, you can “unlink” your posts from your account, but the secrets themselves will not disappear unless they are manually deleted in the feed.

Secret has already seen several juicy pieces of info, that have spread quickly among users, and given their recent almost $10 million backing and slavish devotion among many high-powered fans, its certain that more are to come.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.