Anonymous social media
Appearing very early on the web as mostly anonymous-confession websites, this genre of social media has evolved into various types and formats of anonymous self-expression. With the way digital content is consumed and created continuously changing, the trending shift from web to mobile applications is also effecting anonymous social media. This can be seen as anonymous blogging and nameless question and answer online platforms like Ask.fm introduce mobile versions of their services and the number of new networks joining the anonymous social sharing scene continues to grow rapidly.
Evolution of anonymous apps
Dominating the anonymous social media domain are the many anonymity-based mobile apps released in 2013 and 2014. In response to the information Facebook revealed about its decline among teenage users, main reasons attributed to its size and privacy risks, attempts to bring authentic and safe communication to both public and more private social spheres have surfaced in the form of anonymous and semi-anonymous mobile apps. These services differ from traditional social networks like Twitter and Instagram because they typically do not require people to create a user profile.
Controversy and prospective uses
Apps such as Whisper and Secret have elicited discussion around the rising popularity of anonymity apps including debate and anticipation about this social sharing class. As more and more platforms join the league of anonymous social media, there is growing concern about the ethics and morals of anonymous social networking as cases of cyber-bullying and personal defamation occur. As the number of people using these platforms multiplies, unintended uses of the apps have increased, urging popular networks to enact in-app warnings and prohibit use to middle and high school students.
Some of these apps have also been criticized for causing chaos in American schools, such as lockdowns and evacuations. In order to limit the havoc caused, anonymous apps are currently removing all abusive and harmful posts. Apps, such as Yik Yak, Secret, and Whisper, are removing these posts by outsourcing the job of content supervision to oversea surveillance companies. These companies hire a team of individuals to inspect and remove any harmful or abusive posts. Furthermore, algorithms are also used to detect and remove any abusive posts the individuals may have missed. Another method used by the anonymous app named Cloaq to reduce the number of harmful and abusive posts is by limiting the amount of users that can register during a certain period. Under this system, all contents are still available to the public, however only registered users can post.
There are also promising opportunities anonymous social media networks offer regarding authentic human connection and semi-anonymous communication. Other anonymous social media formats are not public and rely on controlled anonymity like tellM and rumr. In this case, users only interact with their contact list, allowing people to connect with people they know anonymously. With room for free expression and communication among semi-known identities, there is discussion that with this type of technology a market for political activism in other parts of the world is possible. Moreover, anonymous social media can also provided authentic connection to complete anonymous communication. There have been cases where these anonymous platforms have saved individuals from life-threatening situation or spread news about a social cause.
Generating revenue from anonymous apps has been a discussion for investors. Since little information is collected about the users, it is difficult for anonymous apps to advertise to users. However some apps, such as Whisper, have found a method to overcome this obstacle. They have developed a “keyword-based” approach, where advertisements are shown to users depending on certain words they type. Another app named Yik Yak has been able to capitalize on the features they provide. Anonymous apps such a Chrends take the approach of using anonymity to provide freedom of speech. Telephony app Burner has regularly been a top grossing utilities app in the iOS and Android app stores using its phone number generation technology. Despite the success of some anonymous apps, there are also apps, such as Secret, which have yet to find a way to generate revenue. The idea of an anonymous app has also caused mixed opinions within investors. Some investors have invested a large sum of money because they see the potential revenue generated within these apps. Other investors have stayed away from investing these apps because they feel these apps bring more harm than good.
There are several of sources to generate revenue for anonymous social media sites. One source of revenue is by implementing programs such as a premium membership or a gift-exchanging program. Another source of revenue is by merchandising goods and specific usernames to users. In addition, sites such as FMyLife, have implemented a policy where the anonymous site will receive 50% of profit from apps that makes money off it.
In terms of advertisements, some anonymous sites have had troubles implementing them or attracting them. There are several reasons for this problem. Anonymous sites, such as 4chan, have received few advertisement offers due to some of the contents it generates. Other anonymous sites, such as Reddit, have been cautious in implementing them in order to maintain their user base. Despite the lack of advertisements on certain anonymous sites, there are still anonymous sites, such as SocialNumber, that support the idea.
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