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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014
Secret: the ‘new’ social network
Rajiv Makhni, Hindustan Times
April 26, 2014
First Published: 12:31 IST(26/4/2014)
Last Updated: 12:10 IST(27/4/2014)
Techilicious columnist Rajiv Makhni

“Nike abandons the Fuelband Fitness Tracker and lays off most of its people from its hardware division”

The news is shocking but what is even more shocking is that I knew about this almost 20 days before it made the headlines. It wasn’t from a friend who worked at Nike, nor any of my contacts in Silicon Valley; it came on a social app from a friend who told me about it secretly. The only difference: I didn’t know who that friend was! This was the ultimate way to tell a big secret – nameless, unidentified and completely invisible.

Another app, Yik Yak, lets you share your secrets

A New World Welcome to the anonymous network, a new world that is taking the world by storm. And the app that is spearheading this new way of communicating is Secret. On this app, a few days ago, had popped up the information that the Fuelband division was going to shut down as Nike was getting out of the fitness tracker business. Just like any outlandish secret told to you by an anonymous source, I had dismissed it as purple smoke blown up by some disgruntled competitor. But lo and behold, it actually happened! And with that came new respect for what may well be the next revolution in social networking.

Human Nature We all have things pent up within, we all have information that is too hot to not tell others. And we all have gossip that must be set free for it to spread its wings and soar. But we don’t let all this out. We keep it within as we cannot afford to have our name associated with it. That’s where technology, a slightly malicious bent of mind, good coding and anonymous networking apps come in. Here’s why the next big thing in tech may well be an app that has made sharing anonymous secrets into a true art form.

Radically Different Secret is an app that seems to have been designed from the ground-up by people who truly know how secret sharing works in the real world.

Download the app and it doesn’t ask you to assign yourself a username or handle, as there isn’t one for anybody. You don’t friend anyone, you don’t follow anyone and you don’t invite anyone.

The app looks up your contact list and builds your network, except they don’t know it and neither do you.

It’s all very hush-hush by design as no one is really supposed to tell the others that they use Secret. That’s pretty much it. Right after, secrets will start appearing on your app screen.

The app also eschews a user interface for a vertical scrolling feed that has secrets pouring in from your friends and friends of friends. You’ll read them, be shocked and awed, but not know who the secret is from. Each secret has its own look and artwork and a heart and comment icon. Like it and it’ll spread to others in your network, they’ll like it and it will move to their network of friends and the secret will spread across the world. Pretty much real life without a face and a name to it. 

Secret is an app that has made sharing anonymous secrets into a true art form

What it really is Do remember, this isn’t suddenly going to become your very own personal WikiLeaks, customised for you with amazing secrets pouring in. Anyone can post anything and the anonymity helps boost the quantity of things people post. Thus you’ll start off with a healthy dose of just gossipy, salacious stuff. Also, as it’s dependent on your friends putting in things, Secret right now works best if a large set of your friends have it installed. But slowly, it’ll pick up pace and have all the juicy stuff lined up for you as you use it for a while.

Playing Devil’s Advocate So, let’s get the one part out of the way that I know I’m going to get flamed for.

Am I advocating and promoting an app which may be a breeding ground for malicious personal attacks, unfounded rumours and offensive comments?

Well, if the kind of people that talk about stuff like that are people you call your friends, maybe a rumour-spreading app is not your biggest problem!

On a serious note, the app has quite a few safeguards built in including filtering, asking you to be think before you post if you use someone’s name and a very strict offensive flagging policy.

Secret is a robust environment that replicates a real slice of life. David Byttow, one of the people behind the app, calls it a “masquerade ball, where you know who is there and who is on the list, but no one can see faces”.Whisper, like Secret, works on the whole anonymity angle

Whisper, like Secret, works on the whole anonymity angle

More Apps that can do the same: Secret has become quite addictive, a huge hit all over the world and has already been the source of numerous leaks, undisclosed facts and previews to what would become the headline a few days later.

It has brought back people who had gone off Facebook and other social networks, and has people scrolling furiously at lunch breaks and coffee shops.

Secret isn’t the only app that can achieve this singular anonymity magic, there are others like Whisper and Yik Yak that also do almost the same thing but execute it differently. It’s become such a epidemic that a few weeks ago when the Secret servers were down, a lot of people didn’t know what to do with their day.

I would urge you to install each of them and give them a try. After all, I need more people on my invisible network to bring in more juicy stuff. It’s also a great outlet for all those things festering inside you and a great escape for all those things you really know.

Let the secret sharing begin. As we know, Suzanne Collins, the author of the Hunger Games trilogy, wrote, “Some secrets are too delicious not to share”.

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

Photo: Thinkstock

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