Anonymous social app Secret has reached the end of the road, with co-founder David Byttow giving little in the way of explanation other than it now “does not represent the vision I had when starting the company”.
For all the lofty ambitions – “I believe in honest, open communication and creative expression, and anonymity is a great device to achieve it” – Secret has been surrounded by controversy. While the app enables messages to be shared only within a user’s social group, this also includes “friends of friends”, opening it to a wide group.
This led to concerns about bullying and the spreading of false information (personal and business), with no opportunity for response from the aggrieved party. And last year, Ars Technica reported that the authorities in Brazil had issued an injunction against the app, against a backdrop of concern about bullying.
Byttow and Chrys Bader, the company’s other co-founder, had previously detailed their efforts to protect users, through the definition of a content policy, providing tools for community members to flag offending posts, and the creation of a moderating system and team to oversee the process.
Other apps with similar aims (such as Whisper and Yik Yak) also came in for similar criticism, although Secret’s relatively high-profile meant that it received a significant portion of the fire.
Interestingly, the decision does not seem to have been driven by finances: it still has “a significant amount of invested capital”, which will be returned to investors. Writing on website Medium, Byttow said the app was used by “over 15 million people”.
Late last year, GigaOM reported that the company was “struggling”, with downloads tailing off and challenges related to longer-term user engagement.
The aim now is to “wind down Secret gracefully”.