So much of our lives are public these days. We share updates on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and, in the age of smartphone cameras and 4G networks, every interaction we have could end up online somewhere.
One byproduct of this digital life is that we’re always on, making sure we present the versions of ourselves we most want people to see. That creates a lot of pressure, especially for students and recent college graduates who spend so much of their lives in the presence of friends and roommates.
That’s why Whisper makes so much sense. Whisper is a mobile social network where people share secrets anonymously. You choose a picture, write a short confession and post it. Others respond with their own whispers or send direct messages, which are also anonymous.
Anonymity on the Internet has a bad name. It’s usually associated with personal attacks and hateful drivel.
Whisper turns that on its head, using anonymity to create a safe place for people to say what they’re really thinking—the sorts of things they wouldn’t share on Facebook or even say to a friend for fear of being judged.
People in Whispers talk about their sexual orientation, bad breakups and the anxiety they face raising a child. There are random comments on food or the first day of school, confessions about crushes and unrequited love, and other whimsical outtakes from life.
Whispering is liberating in a way that sharing something publicly—or denying it publicly—can’t be. For the people reading a whisper, it feels a lot more authentic than what you can find on any other social network.
One user summed it up well: “Whisper is a lot like my thoughts. Random. Some meaningful, some stupid and make no sense. I like it here. Feels like I’m in my thoughts.”
It’s a credit to Michael, Brad and the rest of the Whisper team that they’ve created such a nurturing community. From the beginning, Michael and Brad had a vision of Whisper as a place where people could feel safe. And they put in place guardrails to ensure that was the kind of community that emerged.
Whisper polices the site for bullying, removes references to real people and takes steps to ensure that people who are too young for Whisper don’t use it. Michael and Brad made this latter decision in spite of the fact that it would limit growth.
Most social networks grow because people invite their friends to join. For obvious reasons that doesn’t happen at Whisper. Nonetheless, a year and a half into its life it’s getting 2.5 billion page views a month.
We believe that we’re still in the early days of online communication. We are fortunate to work with some of the companies on the leading edge of redefining it, such as WhatsApp, which has pioneered mobile messaging. Other companies like Snapchat have grown by creating a new form of ephemeral communication. We see Whisper in a similar mold, based on anonymous communication.
Michael and Brad are entrepreneurs who care passionately about making peoples’ lives better. They have a strong vision for how to make Whisper even more compelling going forward and we’re pleased to be able to partner with them and Lightspeed’s Jeremy Liew on that journey.
- Roelof Botha on behalf of Sequoia