Controversial anonymous app Secret, sometimes seen as the poster child for all that is wrong with anonymous social apps, will close, said co-founder David Byttow.
“This has been the hardest decision of my life and one that saddens me deeply,” Byttow wrote in a post announcing the decision.
Like competitors Yik Yak and Whisper, Secret lets users post text anonymously, which can set the stage for cyberbullying. And unlike heavily moderated Whisper and Yik Yak, which banned middle and high school students and disabled the service around schools after public outcry, Secret has been seen as slow to improve safety.
In a discussion at SXSW 2014 (two months after launching the app), Byttow denied cyberbullying was an issue on the service. By the writing of his farewell letter, Byttow seemed to indicate a change of heart. “I believe in honest, open communication and creative expression, and anonymity is a great device to achieve it,” he wrote. “But it’s also the ultimate double-edged sword, which must be wielded with great respect and care.”
And while critics may cheer the demise of Secret, it’s important for parents to remember that as long as there’s an appetite for social meanness (either dishing it out or watching it unfold from the sidelines), anonymous apps like Secret will continue to pop up, which puts everyone – targets, perpetrators, bystanders, and now, it seems, app makers – at risk.