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Secret was the darling of Silicon Valley earlier this year, but quickly lost its luster when, like other “anonymish” applications, it came under fire for malicious content posted on the app and was forced to implement tools to prevent harassment.
The application allows users to post “secrets,” or short snippets of text and photos, anonymously. In August, Secret blocked the use of names on the application, and enacted stricter policies about what people could share. Since then, the application has fallen out of the top 1,500 most popular applications in app stores.
On Thursday, Secret launched a completely redesigned application that will change the way people use it. Instead of photos, it’s focusing on text, more like a Yik Yak feed than a Whisper stream. You can still share photos, but they’ll be tiny thumbnails that you can view by tapping them.
Secret pulls contact data from people’s phone books and Facebook profiles to establish a somewhat anonymous network—you’ll likely know people behind some of the posts you’re reading, but you won’t know which friends posted it. Previously, you could view secrets from friends or around the world with the “Explore” feature, but with Secret’s latest update, you can choose to view and share secrets based on your location or on your friend circles.
Anonymous applications are especially popular among young people. To attract a younger audience, especially one that gravitates towards cafeteria gossip, Secret added a feature that lets people connect with people from their school based on their location. The app has an age restriction of 17-years-old on iOS and “high maturity,” on Android, but that likely won’t stop younger students from downloading it. Based on the screenshots from the App Store, Secret is clearly marketing to the college crowd.
The biggest change turns Secret into a messaging app. Now you’ll be able to chat with people on Secret without revealing your identity, like Whisper, another popular anonymish app that’s faced it’s own slew of controversy. Simply tap on the avatar to get the conversation started.
It’s a completely different Secret experience, one that will change how people interact with the application and each other. Secret has, so far, avoided much of the criticism apps like Yik Yak and After School have faced in terms of high school bullying and threats of violence. But now that Secret is a little more like its school-based competitor Yik Yak, it might only be a matter of time before teens begin to use it for bomb threats.
Photo by Suus Wansink/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Selena Larson is a technology reporter based in San Francisco who writes about the intersection of technology and culture. Her work explores new technologies and the way they impact industries, human behavior, and security and privacy. Since leaving the Daily Dot, she's reported for CNN Money and done technical writing for cybersecurity firm Dragos.