Secrets, we all have them, but how would you feel if everyone discovered yours? That’s what a lot of people in Austin, Texas are starting to wonder at the annual SXSW (South By Southwest) Festival; a gathering of musicians, entertainers and tech-industry professionals looking to promote themselves and their products. Secret is a new app, debuting at SXSW, that allows users to anonymously share anything, including all of their personal, or possibly your, secrets on the app’s message boards. The app, which has been around for only 39 days, has already garnered a lot of attention in Silicon Valley, within the tech community and is now ready to be introduced to the world.
After being unleashed on SXSW, Secret immediately became the top story and was put on the fast track to becoming the next big thing to leave the festival. In previous years Twitter and Foursquare were introduced to the public at the festival and became instant sensations. To garner more publicity and attention, Secret created a special SXSW page so users could share all their “secrets” about their festival experience and what they really thought. For the most part the page is fun, people posting that they are having a great time, showing pictures of after-party scenes and sharing harmless things you may not be inclined to directly share with others, like hoping not to see anyone you recognize from your plane ride in.
The release of Secret at SXSW begs the question, could an app that allows users to anonymously share all your secrets really be a good thing? On a large-scale, in the realm of politics and big business, this could go either way. Washington is known for having more secrets than truths (anyone watching House of Cards on Netflix surely feels this way) and by giving an anonymous medium for Washington insiders to spill dirty secrets about what’s really happening behind the scenes everyone may be inclined to become more honest and possibly increase bipartisanship.
The same goes for big business, Secret could help the little guy stand up to the big guy, alerting authorities to insider trading, or expose CEO’s and other high level executives when they try to skim a little extra off the top. You have got to image if Julian Assange had access to Secret he’d have a field day! Of course, this could just as easily go the other way; think about one politician anonymously spreading a nasty “secret” about the opposing candidate that turns out to be false. Once it’s out there it’s hard to stop and this already happens without the anonymous factor added in. Businesses sharing “secrets” about competitors, hurting their profitability and increasing their own over something that’s not true is just as possible.
Interpersonal relationships could suffer as well. This is on a smaller level, but still no one wants everyone finding out about something embarrassing they did because someone else spilled the beans. Rumors and gossip already spread faster than wildfire on the internet now imagine if someone could share the same stories and not have to worry about repercussions. What about bullying in school? Cyber-bullying is a serious problem, kids already create fake nicknames online to bully and torment, now they can anonymously do the same thing.
Of course the flip side of this debate could be that users can now share their thoughts and ideas on any topic without the backlash of others shooting them down or disagreeing. Unique ideas or stances on controversial subjects that someone may feel strongly about but afraid to put out there with their name attached to it become easier to do; think of what the Occupy Movement could have done with this app? Secret could also be used for people afraid to admit something and this could be that first step. It could be used to give a voice to all introverts!
David Bytoww, Secret’s Co-founder and CEO said this is something they have thought about as well, explaining that currently users are only able to share with their group of friends who also use the service; like a circle on Google Plus or things only your friends can see on Facebook. At this point there is not a way for everyone to see everything that is posted, so at least if something bad is said you know it’s coming from one of the people in the circle and it can only spread so far. This most likely will change, as the company has already hinted at, where anyone will be able to see anything, and is basically being tested at SXSW where anyone can post anything on the page if they’re at the festival.
Tech Crunch recently announced that Secret acquired $10 million in funding at SXSW, which means it’s only a matter of time before Secret catches on, spreads and someone tells the world how much I love Katy Perry – I mean Batman.
For the moment, SXSW’s Secret page has proven to be positive as people who share their secrets, or yours, through the app have done so in an entertaining way, to express joy and happiness, send updates or get things off their chest. They are using it to say things they wish they could but don’t have the courage to do; basically turning everyone into clones of Larry David. So keep your secrets close, or share them with your friends while you still have the choice, pretty soon it might all be out there.
Opinion By Chris Dragicevich
SXSW Secret Board