Silicon Valley’s Anonymous Gossip Apps Whip Up Storm Of Ambition and jealousy

Guardian › Edward Helmore

Ten years ago Mark Zuckerberg ushered in the era of social media with the creation of Facebook in his Harvard dorm, and fortunes have been made since coaxing people into sharing their personal information and thoughts online, often with “friends” they hardly know.

Now, it seems, comes the backlash.

Two new apps, Secret and Whisper, are capitalising on a trend to connect people anonymously to express opinions or ideas they might not share if their identities were revealed. Nowhere has the opportunity to dish the dirt anonymously been taken up with greater enthusiasm than in the heart of the tech industry, Silicon Valley, where the apps’ online gossiping offers rare insight into a society shaped by opportunity – at one extreme, for talented entrepreneurs to make vast fortunes and, at the other, years of failure and frustration for tens of thousands of others. Postings that show up simply as “friend” or “friend of friend” reveal Silicon Valley not as a place of hard-working, peaceable tech engineers, but a hothouse of ambition, rivalry, jealousy and obsession.

David Byttow, a founder of Secret, recently described the app as a “masquerade ball” where “you know who is there and who is on the list, but no one can see faces”, according to a report in the New York Times. Byttow and co-founder Chrys Bader-Wechseler believe people are more likely to hold honest conversations under a shroud of anonymity, so they decided to strip out the names and “put people into an environment with their friends to see what happens”.