A Brief Guide To Secret, The Internet’s Burn Book App

02.10.14 4 years ago


In theory, the Internet is largely anonymous. In practice, of course, this is rarely the case. What makes Secret, a new iOS app, so appealing is that it promises the ability to vent your thoughts in total secrecy to your contacts list and their friends. Here’s what you need to know about Secret.

So… wait. You just post stuff anonymously?

Yes, using pretty colored backgrounds or photos, and to your contacts list, if they’ve signed up for Secret. Secret is essentially a build-your-own PostSecret card, complete with the anonymity. Well, in theory, anyway.

Is it really anonymous?

As anonymous as these things can be. Secret’s head honcho David Byttow breaks out how the app works here. That said, odds are pretty good that somebody will be outed sooner or later using social engineering, which is generally how users are found in the first place. Secret does mix your secrets with random other secrets, to try and limit this, but it’s maybe two months out from a user being outed.

One of the biggest problems is that you can’t comment on a post that isn’t shared by one of your friends, meaning that you’ve already got a fairly effective method of narrowing down the suspect list. It’s also currently iOS only, which narrows it down even further.

This seems like something that will either go hilariously wrong or hilariously right.

Secret is one of those creations that demonstrates our odd need as a species simultaneously for privacy and for attention, and while the app’s website is all positivity and rainbows, the reality is, it’s a burn book and negativity rules the day. The tech community in particular has flocked to the app to vent their rage and negativity.

Is it worth trying? Or should I care?

To be honest, while Secret is fundamentally inessential and will probably cease to exist after a year, the app itself is just so bizarrely compelling and such an odd social experiment that it’s worth taking a look. The secrets shared range from the banal to the hostile to the utterly confounding; Secret seems to be a popular place to bitch about your job or unload about your relationship.

And, as noted, it’s a good way to take the temperature of a surprising number of companies and industries; you can learn a lot about a tech startup by looking at how its culture appears on Secret. That said, you’ll want to disable the push notifications, as Secret is a good way to discover that your friends are way more narcissistic or in need of a therapist than you thought.

Again, it’s nothing earth-shaking, but we always love to peer into the lives of others, and Secret is a surprisingly effective way to do that. At least until it winds up getting someone fired.

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