Anonymous social network Secret is to launch in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, capitalising on both its US success - and the seemingly endless capacity of people to broadcast their personal information.
Secret allows users to share short text and image posts with their wider social network, but without revealing who wrote each update. It works by scanning users' address books, and showing their updates to a subset of their friends, and friends of friends.
In practice, users of the iPhone and Android app see a stream of updates ranging from heartfelt confessions to snarky gossip.
"We launched in the US three months ago, on January 30, and we've been testing the waters, making sure that Secret is nice and polished," Secret co-founder, Chrys Bader-Wechseler, told the Guardian. "We decided that the next logical step was to open the doors to the UK, and we're doing that on Monday."
Bader-Wechseler and his co-founder David Byttow met at Google where they both worked on the team for Google+. Byttow left the firm first, and Bader-Wechseler stuck around for another year before, he says "I couldn't take it anymore".
The pair reconnected, and started working on a messaging app that grew out of an anonymous feedback tool Byttow had developed - ironically named "whisperly", very similar to Secret's biggest competitor, Whisper. "We started designing it, and built an iPhone app for this one-on-one messaging project. People enjoyed it, but didn't really engage with it.
"Once we made it a broadcast app, rather than just messaging, made it a stream, and made it so that you could connect with all your contacts, it took off."
But the app isn't just for anonymously commenting on friends' romantic misadventures or questionable sartorial decisions.
Secret won't disclose user numbers, but thanks to its early-adopter audience increasingly using it as a venue to leak secrets about their companies, it's already become a mainstay of the tech press.
News that Vic Gundotra, the former head of Google+, was interviewing for other jobs, broke on Secret three days before his resignation was confirmed. And earlier in April, Nike was forced to deny rumours originating on Secret that the "douchebag execs" were about to fire the team that developed its Fuelband fitness tracker.
As well as whistleblowing on failures, the app has also allowed the publication of stories which may otherwise have been buried. New York Magazine published an interview with a woman whose company had been purchased by Google, which proceeded to hire her four male employees but let her go. She shared her story on Secret, where reporter Kevin Roose asked her to give him a call.
Bader-Wechseler thinks the whistle-blowing aspect of Secret doesn't necessarily conflict with its more gossipy end. "It's an entirely new layer of communication," he argues. "Until Secret existed there was no way to share what was on your mind without your friends judging it. It's like how people type out status updates on Facebook and then delete them."
"I'm proud of shared secrets like the Nike and Google+ stories, but the ones that have been really impressive for me personally have been those from people struggling with panic, anxiety or depression. The support in the comments is brilliant, and it's not just emotional… there's been a lot of different types of information exchanged, with people sharing information of good doctors in their area."
The company has faced its fair share of criticism, however. Influential venture capitalist Marc Andreessen described apps like Secret as systems "designed to encourage negative behavior, tearing people down, making fellow souls sad," and questioned whether it was ethical to invest in them. Others have accused the app of enabling bullying, while doing little to protect the victims.
Bader-Wechseler counters that the firm actually does more than competitors. "We draw a really hard line when it comes to bullying. When a piece of content is flagged, it's reviewed, and if it appears to be bullying, we'll take it down.
"Another thing that's important to note is that all these other platforms you have infinite lives, but with Secret you have only one. If we have to ban you, we ban you on the phone number. If that happens, you're banned for ever. You get one chance, and if you mess it up, you're done."
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