The app ecosystem & very public secrets

By Anne Collier

These are crazy times in the mediascape, and not just because of crazy valuations of startup apps. How do all these socially risky apps get out into the digital ecosphere? They don’t take a lot of people, time or other resources to build anymore – not like digital media products and services of lore, anyway, as a recent NYT Magazine article by a young software engineer made clear. And there’s money, in the form of venture capital, available for growing app developers’ companies and potentially for acquisition down the line (as with Facebook acquiring Instagram and Whatsapp).

“Most apps launch with a minimum viable product. The adage is that with startups, you’re falling out of the sky and trying to build the plane before you hit the ground. And that usually works…. [But] a false move in terms of moderation policies, security, or this new Share feature [allowing users to post any secret they find on Secret to Twitter or Facebook or via text or email] could leave a bad taste that might be hard to wash out. But that scrutiny [of these products] is the price you pay for rapid success in a frontier territory like anonymous mobile sharing,” TechCrunch reports. This copy-and-paste capability is not new (it’s at least as old as email), but it underscores the fact that there’s nothing private about digital secrets even if posted anonymously. Just two examples of how they can go public: 1) somebody guesses who posted a “secret” and forwards or reposts it elsewhere with the original poster’s name or 2) a service is subpoenaed or otherwise ordered by a court to provide the IP address and other identifying information of a user who posts harassing or threatening content.

This is a sidebar to my two previous posts here and here.