If you live outside the tech bubble of Silicon Valley you could be forgiven for not having heard of Secret, but the app has been making a big splash among early adopters and is generating plenty of buzz at South By Southwest. Secret allows you to post messages anonymously from your phone, which can then be liked and commented on by other users.
The best way to understand how it works is to check out the special SXSW feed that Secret has created for the week-long event in Austin, Texas. As you can see, the service works a little bit like Twitter, with no identities or usernames attached. “Pretty sure I don’t trust this yet,” reads one message. “SXSW is a great testing ground.”
Co-founder David Byttow is in Austin and has taken part in several discussions on the app. “If we could do it again… we’d move away from the word anonymous,” Byttow said in an interview. “Anonymous literally means without a name. Anonymous doesn’t mean untraceable.”
The ex-Googler was responding to concerns that Secret makes it too easy to harass or bully individuals without recrimination. Byttow has now confirmed that unsavoury messages are “quarantined” by Secret staff or users, and are only visible to the person who has written them. Anyone posting overly negative updates will “either stop or their behavior will change” said Byttow.
The app has only been live on Apple’s App Store since the start of February, and is limited to users in the US for now, but already the investors are circling. TechCrunch is reporting that Secret has closed a $10 million round of funding, valuing the company at $50 million. The app has also recently added social sharing and location search features.
Secret isn’t the only service looking to tap into a new trend towards privacy and anonymity. Whisper is another anonymous posting app that has been around since 2012, while secure one-to-one messenger tools such as Wickr and Telegram are also gaining traction in the wake of revelations about the NSA and other spy agencies. For now, it looks like the emergence of Secret could be one of the big stories of SXSW 2014.