Secret — the iOS app that lets you share confessions, rumors, complaints and praise with your wider circle of friends without attaching your name to it– has captured the eye of early adopters in the US tech world. Now, with $10 million in funding behind it, Secret is going to test the waters for how it will fare in the wider word, with the app opening up this week to its first international markets and an Android launch on the horizon.
Secret’s first moves outside of the U.S. will be to several English-speaking countries — namely the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
Meanwhile, the Android launch also is still coming up but there are plenty of hints that it’s also imminent — or in the words of Chrys Bader-Wechseler, who co-founded the startup with David Byttow, Android is “well along and on the way.”
Given the early and fast pick up for Secret in the U.S., why the delay in getting the app out wider and more quickly? “We wanted to make sure we get things right before we expand to more markets,” Bader-Wechseler told me in an interview.
In the past several weeks, Secret has been adding and working on new features, such as a way to alert users when they’re making defamatory posts and the ability to share Secret posts on social networks and surface those nearby to you, similar to what Whisper, an older and larger anonymous secret-sharing app, also offers. The main idea with a lot of this seems to be to drive home the point that anonymity does not mean no accountability. Or “Anonymish”, as some like to describe it.
On the other hand, since Android appears to have bigger market share compared to iOS outside the U.S., timing that expansion closer to Android availability also makes sense.
Or, it could be a question of a usage injection made that the right moment. Around its debut, the app stirred a lot of interest and peaked at number 16 in App Annie’s U.S. rankings for social networking app downloads; today that number is 134.
Growing users, growing revenues
Indeed, Secret is still very much in its growth phase, with no signs yet of features to generate revenue. At the same time, there are some early indications of how the app may choose to approach monetization differently from other social networking apps.
“Philosophically we’re not fans of advertising,” Bader-Wechseler says. “When someone jumps between you and a conversation, I don’t like that experience.” Instead he describes one goal as making sure there is an “exchange of value, helping people get what they need.”
Could that point to more utility features in the app some day, such as local search and recommendation? There’s already some indication of localization of content that might lend itself to that. “One the things that’s interesting is that in the U.S. not only people have secrets, but cities have secrets too,” he tells me.
And outside of the Silicon Valley bubble, unsurprisingly, the topics quickly move away from tech. “I think that one of the misconceptions is that Secret is only about Silicon Valley, but your stream is generally representative of your address book. We see secrets from all over,” Bader-Wechseler tells me. “People talk about their lives and things that are specific to the human condition.”
Bader-Wechseler says Secret does not share absolute numbers because this isn’t what really matters to the startup. “When you are launching a new product the thing you want to get right is how many stick around and how sticky it is, how many people love it. We’ve been focused on that primarily, accelerating growth thoughtfully and carefully.”
To that end, he says that engagement has been “impressive” so far — at least for those who have been able to find a community on the site.
“We see about 75% of people who have friends on the network will come back every week,” he says. “If they participate in a conversation, 90% will come back.” Those who are returning do so a lot, opening the app between eight and 10 times each day. “You see people on the app all day basically, an interesting and a good sign.”
In that regard, getting the nearby feature turned on will be a key way for Secret to stoke flames for early users. “It’s really important when you are launching in a new market when everyone from the UK finds out they are seeing from friends most importantly things around them, that you are entering your culture,” he says.
The majority of users so far are adults over the age of 25, with “definitely a strong female presence.”
Further out, Secret is also looking at how it will onboard users in countries where English is not the main language. That could see Secret moving its social or geographical “graphs” into topic graphs. “We will be experimenting with cross cultural pieces of content,” he notes, with the possibility of giving automatic translations of those Secrets into the language that you are using as your default.
Making the app more relevant for average users will be an important way also for Secret to differentiate itself in the increasingly crowded market of privacy-focused apps that have launched, partly in response to Snowden revelations, and partly in reaction to the relentless inclination to share that you find on platforms like Facebook.
“I have a whole screen of all the anonymous apps that have launched since us,” Bader-Wechseler tells me, and those are just the ones that he’s noticed, he notes.
“We have a new platform and its a whole new world,” he says. “There are so many possibilities that have opened up.”