Secret and Whisper have hit a dubious benchmark of success. Both have been cloned by developers in China. Secret posted about its Chinese duplicate this weekend, while Tech In Asia was the first English-language publication to report on both apps.
Mimi means “secret” in Chinese, while Xiaosheng means “quiet.” Mimi was made by Shenzhen Wumii Technology Limited, which publishes lifestyle apps, while Xiaosheng’s developer shares the app’s name, according to its site. We’ve contacted both for comment.
The copies aren’t surprising, consider the success of both Secret and Whisper in the U.S. and the buzz around anonymous apps. Furthermore, Secret is not available for phone numbers outside the U.S. and though Whisper allows users from around the world, the bulk of its secrets are in English.
It makes sense that developers would want to piggyback on the apps’ popularity by making “localized” versions while they are still hot.
Mimi’s interface is a near-perfect clone of Secret, down to the style of icons used to denote individual anonymous users in the comments section of each post. But there is one key difference.
In order to see secrets from your friends, Mimi first requires you to send at least three invitations through SMS, messaging app WeChat, and several popular Chinese social networks. Though this ploy seems like an obvious growth hack, Mimi insists that it is to protect your friends’ privacy. On the other hand, Secret asks you to verify your mobile number before seeing posts from your friends.
(Secret’s co-founder David Byttow emailed me to clarify that the app does require you to have between three to five friends, depending on various factors, and then it the app just notes that posts are from your “circle” instead of a friend or “friend of a friend.”)
Xiaosheng works the same way Whisper does: you enter your secret, select fonts and a background image, and then share it with all the app’s users. Like Whisper, you can sort the secrets of other users by the latest, most popular, or their location.
Though Xiaosheng is a near-perfect duplicate of Whisper, it’s important to note that Whisper’s own resemblance to the defunct PostSecret app was noticed by many of the latter’s former users when it launched.
The cloning of Secret and Whisper is symptomatic of a problem other developers of popular apps, like Vine, have dealt with.
As mobile penetration in China and other countries increase, smartphone users will want access to the same types of apps as their counterparts in the U.S. If those apps aren’t available quickly enough, it’s likely that a local developer will step up to the plate before startups have time to launch their own localized versions.
In fact, Tech In Asia says that “it’s unfair to call these Chinese apps rip-offs, as the originals are useless to a Chinese audience without any local content.” The near-identical UIs, however, might make it hard for Secret and Whisper to agree.