As anyone who has ever applied for a job and been asked to “friend” a representative of the Human Resources can attest, the rise in social media has had a profound negative effect on how we use the internet. Most of us now realise that platforms like Twitter and Facebook are no longer playgrounds where we can be as belligerent and obnoxious as we want because we never know who is going to see our “rough spots.”
In other words, our anonymity is nearly non-existent. Consequently, most of us are now editing what we say and who we say it to on the major social media platforms, creating a built-in niche for a new kind of app: the anonymity app.
The most promising of the new generation of anonymity apps is Secret, an app developed by two engineers formerly employed by Google. The developers, Chrys Bader-Wechseler and David Byttow, built the app to allow fellow employees to give honest, unedited feedback to their fellow workers.
Secret, though a new app, is a bit of a throwback to the days of anonymous accounts and people known only by “handles” or nicknames. Friends and even friends of friends can say whatever they want about whoever they want and discuss secret plans such as wedding proposals without fear of reprisal or exposure.
Other apps in the relatively new genre include Yik Yak, Whisper and Confide. All of these apps fill a need for social interaction within an environment of anonymity. Anonymity has become a problem since Facebook and Google Plus obtained mainstream popularity. Circles which once include only friends now include co-workers, bosses, relatives and even in-laws. This has forced most people to not be nearly as candid online as they once were.
True to its origins within Google, Secret is most popular with the Silicon Valley crowd and other smaller technological communities. They are used for more than venting or complaining about fellow employees, though. Many use them to talk about life events such as deaths of friends and family, illnesses and awkward social situations.
Secret tells when a friend has posted, but it doesn’t tell which friend it was. This means that even handles aren’t posted. This allows people to feel free to post opinions that would result in negative ramifications if their identities were known. Posts on Secret are shown to friends and friends of friends and all are allowed to comment on the posts.
While Secret is popular with the techie crowd, Whisper is more for the under-25 crowd. On Whisper, nobody is allowed to use a real name in a post unless it is that of a public figure. Whisper recently completed an agreement with BuzzFeed, allowing BuzzFeed to quote material posted on Whisper.
The larger social platforms began to move away from anonymity because “flaming,” trolling and bullying became popular on larger platforms. However, the smaller anonymity apps haven’t had any problems with bullying, probably due to being broken into smaller communities with unique and similar needs.
What This Means to App Developers
We like that Secret was developed to fix a small problem in one small niche. We like it even more that the developers realised that their niche wasn’t the only one that had use for an anonymity app. Think of the mechanics here. The creators had a small problem within their workplace and turned it into an app that is now used by a lot of people outside of where it was originally intended to be used.
This is a great example of how solving one problem for one niche can lead to solving ancillary problems for a much bigger niche. It also speaks well for the opportunities that are still present in the anonymity app market. Here are some opportunities and some questions we would ask.
It seems like each of the anonymity apps has its own little social niche. What would happen if someone created an anonymity app that people from all walks of life felt comfortable using?
Could an app with one basic structure be branded with different names for different niches the way dating platforms are?
People like anonymity. What other privacy issues could be mitigated with an app? Could a simple forum app be marketed to offices or even to individuals to form small, private groups or cliques?
The Possibilities are Endless; Now it’s Your Turn
You are probably here because you are interested in apps. The questions in the previous section of this post are exactly how an app developer needs to think when reading about anything. There are a near-infinite number of niches, all with their own unique problems.
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