anonymous

Secret, one of the many anonymous social networks that’s risen to prominence over the past six months, today announced a $25 million Series B round led by Index Ventures. That’s over twice the $11.3 million the company has raised so far. Index’s Danny Rimer, who will join the company’s board as part of the deal, wrote a blog post today detailing the need for anonymity in online communication:

In contrast to Facebook, where people create highly-curated public personas, and Twitter, where people broadcast quick thoughts to engage and attract hundreds or thousands of often unknown followers, Secret gives people the freedom to share thoughts and beliefs that they aren’t ready to share publicly, and solicit feedback from a trusted network 100% anonymously. Ultimately the need to share and express ones self is driven by our desire not to be alone. Secret is essentially a form of online graffiti; a place where we can truly unburden ourselves of potentially controversial thoughts – to our friends, our company, and our society. No other social network provides anonymity, but rather, are founded on the opposite principal of creating a public profile.

Well, it’s not quite true that “no other social network provides anonymity.” Secret’s biggest rival in the space is Whisper, which to date has raised $60 million in funding and attracted big editorial hires like Gawker’s erstwhile traffic wizard, Neetzan Zimmerman, who at one point generated 30 million pageviews a month for the site. Whisper has also partnered with outlets like BuzzFeed and Fusion TV to help broadcast its anonymous (and unverified) posts through more traditional journalistic channels. Both Nathaniel Mott and I have written at length about the obvious problems these deals pose to journalistic integrity.

Secret’s game plan seems to differ in many ways. Rimer speaks of Secret in more utilitarian terms, with the app acting as a safe sounding board for any number of networks, from mobile contact lists to company workforces. Secret may also look to target niche communities like gamers, as evidenced by a partnership announced last month with an unnamed Chinese gaming company.

Regardless of whether you find Whisper’s editorial ambitions praiseworthy or downright awful for journalism, the fact that Secret is differentiating itself from its biggest rival means anonymity is not a zero-sum game. And despite Whisper’s formidable war chest (which is still nearly double that of Secret’s even after today’s round) there appears to be room for multiple victors — that is, assuming anonymity isn’t just another trend we all forget about it in six months.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]