Shout Offers A New Take On Location-Based Social Networking By Ditching Anonymity

A new application called Shout is offering a twist on location-based mobile social networking, with a newly launched app that lets you post messages shared with those in your immediate vicinity, or even citywide.

The idea is similar in some ways to the popular anonymous social app Yik Yak, which also lets you post things to be shared with those nearby, except for a key difference: On Shout, users are not really anonymous. Instead, you have to sign up using your phone number before posting to the app, which encourages accountability. That change differentiates Shout from Yik Yak and others like it, because it helps create a different kind of community, explains Shout’s founder, Charlie Mullan.

“We’re not anonymous –  and we don’t want to be – because I think that ultimately hurts the value of the content that can be shared over the course of an app’s lifecycle,” he says. While he believes that the trend toward anonymous social networking, popularized by apps like Yik Yak, Secret and Whisper, is more than a flash-in-the-pan, he also thinks it dictates the kind of community that results.

“I definitely think it encourages a certain kind of information, and you have to make the decision: is that the kind of information you want to be shared and you want your users to share?” he says.

With Shout, the goal is to get users to share information they wouldn’t have otherwise posted elsewhere, but without the trolling and abuse anonymous communities face.

For instance, you could post messages that are only visible to you and others in your own apartment building. But you can also share to larger geographic regions, as well. In the app, when you post a “Shout,” you drag your finger across a slider that ranges from 25 ft. to 25 miles, allowing you to choose exactly who can see your content.

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The system isn’t perfect, though. It’s hard to exactly isolate a neighborhood or college campus, for example, because the map only lets you edit the circular radius around your exact location. And there’s no option to choose a location from a pre-populated database, either. But Mullan admits the map element is still something of an “MVP” – meaning they still have work to do on that element.

Shout, he tells us, grew out of his earlier efforts with location-based social networking with an app called Spangle, which is backed by $2 million in angel funding.

Designed to offer a real-time feed of trending events on college campuses, the older Spangle app, launched last fall, was overly complicated and it was difficult to get users to post events, Mullan says. Shout initially was a new feature added to Spangle, but one which users responded to, he explains.

So last month, the team decided to break out Shout as its own standalone experience and, just a few weeks later, this new app is the result.

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In the first 24 hours, users have posted over 1,000 “shouts” in the app – engagement which Mullan believes may have to do with being featured on the Product Hunt website. But now that the app is live, he’s waiting to see how users will adopt the service before making major product decisions.

At launch, you can post text and pictures to Shout, but the team hasn’t committed to adding in video support, for example.

The hope is that Shout will draw in a wider audience than the college-focused Spangle app did, however. “It’s more broad this time around,” says Mullan. “[Spangle] was a value proposition college kids understood, but everyone else really didn’t.”

Shout, also co-founded by Supriyo Roy (previously UX at Amazon, Microsoft) and Gabe Gajecki (previously of Amazon, ESPN, Thomson Reuters), is backed by over a dozen angels, including Robert Wolf (CEO of 32 Advisors) and Shane McMahon (Chairman of You on Demand).

The app is a free download on iTunes.