Secrets Do Make Trends: Anonymity Apps on the Rise

NBC News › Keith Wagstaff

When Facebook burst onto the scene in 2004, the Internet’s culture of anonymity and pseudonymity, when strangers talked mainly behind screen names, changed drastically.

That is why recent reports that Facebook is exploring anonymity features like the ones used by mobile apps Secret and Whisper have raised more than a few eyebrows.

"It would, of course, be deeply ironic if Facebook moved in that direction," Clive Thompson, author of "Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds For The Better," told NBC News. "Facebook’s promise was that if people signed up with their real name, the quality of everyday discourse would be better."

A decade after the birth of Facebook (as well as the flood of social networks, like Instagram and Twitter, that followed) and we still have not reached Mark Zuckerberg’s civil online utopia, despite the fact that many people now comment on the Internet using their real names.

Meanwhile, many users have flocked to Secret and Whisper to vent steam, make confessions or just make things up without fear of embarrassment or recrimination.