Thinking Out Loud About Secret
For the past few days, I’ve been obsessed with a new app called Secret. If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s basically a simple feed of anonymous “secrets” that people are posting in public, with only a tiny hint who’s sending it — a “friend” (someone in your phone’s contact list), “friend of friend”, or someone further away.
While many of the posts are boring or tacky — I kinda love how the Silicon Valley community has immediately displayed how shallow, petty, and defensive it is, despite endless claims to the contrary — some are shockingly compelling. Many are funny, some are scandalous, and some are touching. One guy in New York just posted a photo of an engagement ring, with the note “She said no.” Who knows if it’s real or fake — that’s part of the fun — but it makes you think.
Secret is easily the fastest-growing social app I’ve ever used. Judging by the double-digit “loves” and comments many of my posts have already received, it’s growing way faster than Instagram did.
The billion-dollar question is whether Secret will still be a vibrant, growing community in a few months. It could totally be a fun, quick fad, à la Chatroulette or Dots. Or if people keep posting and commenting, it could go on to become one of the great social networks.
One big thing Secret has going for it is the relative freedom to post stuff you’d never post on Twitter — thoughts about your job, relationship, friends, whatever — without the concern of being outed or fired. (All of this assumes that Secret’s security isn’t compromised, which is never a guarantee.) This is always going to be an asset that Facebook or Twitter can’t easily copy. But by definition, Secret must also leave out many great features that public social networks have: The ability to build a following, get credit for your best posts, share your secrets more widely, or see who’s communicating with you. Before you smirk, these aren’t just features of Twitter or Facebook — they’re basic traits of human nature.
On Secret, you’re not building your personal brand or any digital relationships — you’re building Secret’s brand, and blowing off some steam. On a short-term basis, for most people, that’s totally fine. But for the long run, it’s not clear whether people will put much effort into Secret once the novelty wears off.