How to Develop an Anonymous Social Media App

Aug 17, 2020·15 min read

Anonymous social media websites are of great demand for personal and corporate use. Take a look at some of the most successful examples and find out how to launch your own powerful product in the shortest terms.

Contents:

Social media knows everything about you.

It collects your email and location data; it knows about your relations and problems you struggle with. It tracks places you visit and vacation destinations you dream of. It keeps an eye on your likes and comments. And the bitterest thing is that social media may easily share your data with any third party, without you even noticing it.

The day Facebook was launched, it was just an anonymous social media website with funny nicknames and cats’ avatars. Years went by, and everything changed. Now, social media like Facebook collect all accessible data to show you relevant advertising. It’s disturbing, it’s annoying. Thus, users all over the world are concerned about personal info social media websites collect.

That’s the chance for you to contribute to the social media industry and satisfy a high demand: complete anonymity.

In this article, we’ll tell you how to do it fast, with minimum costs, as well as answer numerous bothering questions:

  • How’s anonymous social media different from traditional ones?
  • Why people give their preferences to anonymous apps?
  • What to start with when building an anonymous online network?
  • How to monetize an anonymous network?
  • What’s disturbing about anonymous apps, etc.?

Let’s see what we have for you!

Social media vs. anonymous social media: what’s a difference?

If you have a profile on one of the popular social media and networking channels like Facebook or Twitter, you are already aware of 2 simple facts:

  • To sign in, you need to provide some unique personal information like email, address, name and surname, etc.;
  • The apps track your activity and footprints, as well as collect all the information they can to provide you with interactive, engaging, and relevant content.

Although it seems like not a big deal, more and more people worldwide strive to protect their personal data and hide online activity for various reasons. According to a survey, 86% of respondents take measures to hide their digital footprints. More than half of respondents are taking measures to avoid observation by the government or individual people.

information users strive to hide with anonymous apps

Let’s see what exactly they strive to mask:

  • Contact info

More than 21% of Internet users had their email compromised. Scammers don’t miss a chance to use email, phone, and contact details for online fraud. With this basic info, accounts can be easily hacked as well as other troubles may emerge.

  • Contact list

With access to your account, scammers get an opportunity to break into your network. Personal data of your relatives and friends just flows into the wrong hands.

  • Viewed content

13% of users reported troubles in their relationship because of something they posted or viewed online. Some social networks demonstrate the posts you like, new friends you add, or comments you write to all your network.

  • Location

A friend of mine is afraid to share her routes on Strava as she believes someone may follow her routes, especially on evening or night runs. Strava always asks for user’s permissions before tracking the route as well as offers specific security features. However, many social media apps don’t demonstrate such preventions.

At the same time, more than 30% of Internet users provide their exact address online, which turns to a wide field of opportunities for scammers and criminals.

  • Private chats

Emails and online chats privacy is a valuable thing for 68% and 51% of respondents, respectively. People worry if their online communication may be shown to third parties. Leaks ruin careers, reputations, and relations. For instance, it’s a challenge for employees to discuss some corporative issues, HR policies, or even low wages, if their boss may track it easily online. Using an internal communication app, a channel administrator may access private chats.

And this is why more and more Internet users turn their heads towards anonymous social media channels.

Anonymous website kills the concerns mentioned above with one shot:

  • They don’t require contact info;
  • They don’t connect your real personality to online appearance;
  • They have no access to your smartphone’s contact list;
  • They don’t track your digital footprints;
  • The principle of “disappearing” content is universal among similar platforms: thus, the information you share in private chats can’t turn to an argument against you.

Depending on the app’s specifics, you may collect users’ emails or not, detect their location, or access your app completely anonymously. It may be a simple messaging app or even an anonymous social networking platform. The point is to protect the user’s privacy.

Your app may turn to a life-saver for people who look for ways to disguise their identities, avoid annoying ads, beat the scammers, and save the reputation.

How to build an anonymous social media app?

The software development process is a complex and time-consuming task. Just take a look at Facebook: a typical example of a social networking app that was once anonymous, it passed all the stages of the product’s evolution. And it doesn’t stop now. With almost 60 billion gross income in 2019, the company invested nearly 14 billion in research and development.

But how to start if your budget is limited? How to build a viable anonymous social media app with minimum resources, far before investors pay attention to your product? In this section, we’ll guide you through the process and describe eight necessary steps of fast and affordable anonymous social media app development.

steps to build an anonymous social media app

Clarify your goals

Before anyone else approves your plan, approve it yourself.

There are numerous ways you can choose and multiple types of apps you can opt for. At the initial stage of your product development, focus on one of them:

  • How does the user persona look like?
  • Do you see it as a chat-based website or a full-featured anonymous social network?
  • What information would you like to require for authorization?
  • What content will your users share?

The answers to these questions may depend on an industry your app will serve. There are several hot niches we’d like to draw your attention to:

  • Safe communication

Governments worldwide demanded Facebook to ban accounts and communities due to a variety of reasons:

2011 Egypt Facebook blocked during Egyptian protests.
2013 India Facebook banned during riots.
2014 Russia The government demanded to block all the links and posts that supported the opposition leader.
2018 Israel The government banned thousands of accounts during municipal elections.

The list may continue. Even in a modern, developed democratic world, anonymous social media app may become the only place, the island of peace, where people can speak about their political views fearlessly.

  • Corporate HR needs

Another way to succeed with an anonymous social network is to build a website for HR needs. Both huge enterprises and small firms may fail to identify employees’ needs, troubles, conflicts, and overlook crises and burnouts.

Launch a specific anonymous app to collect employee’s honest opinions, to let them share their worries, or ask for help anonymously, and you will cater to the needs of numerous companies worldwide. With a convenient functionality and a guarantee of full confidentiality, your app will fit the unoccupied niche.

  • Creative communities

Starting their creative path, photographers, writers, and artists may want to hide their true identities. Before showing their results to relatives, friends, or mentors, they may look for approval in strangers’ community. Unfamiliar networks, where no one knows their real names, their life situations, background, etc. would be safe for taking the first steps.

For such a group of people, high-quality anonymous social media may be a convenient launching pad. Sharing their works and opinions with strangers, these people will become more confident about a safe coming-out in the real world.

Try similar apps

The idea you evolve may already find its place in similar apps. Investigate them, study them, identify their imperfections. Here, we prepared a list of anonymous social networking sites to get acquainted with:

Whisper

whisper anonymous app

“Turning confessions into content”. That’s how this app works. Whisper allows users to share photo and video content anonymously. The posts, or whispers, are texts put on background images, and users can react or respond to them both publicly or privately.

More than 17 billion of visitors view Whisper’s web pages monthly.

Reddit

reddit anonymous app

The popular Q&A website, or “a front page of Internet” is an anonymous social app as well. The website asks for a standard authorization using an email, Google, or Facebook account. However, once you’ve registered, other users may view only basic data like your nickname or avatar.

Reddit actively defends online privacy and anonymity. The platform controls the posted content and prohibits access for minor users.

Yik Yak

yikyak anonymous app

Yik Yak wasn’t completely anonymous as it collected user location data. In a defined radius, users could create, view, discuss, like, and dislike different threads.

However, issues emerged. Yik Yak was denounced as a social media that spreads cyberbullying and shut down in 2017. This decision had a small positive side: Square bought Yik Yak’s intellectual property and hired a part of a team.

Yik Yak was one of the most successful social media apps in terms of funding and investments. Initially funded by Atlanta Ventures, an app multiplied the number of users and the volume of investments during four years of existence.

Not all anonymous apps are meant to succeed. However, clear goals, sharp focus, and control over the website’s content may bring you sky-high investments. Keep reading, we’ve got some tips on how to make money with the anonymous app below.

Focus on MVP development

MVP, or a minimum viable product, is an initial version of your anonymous social network app. MVP opens the door to a galaxy of opportunities, including:

  • Real users feedback;
  • Millions of investments;
  • Business growth.

The particular advantage of MVP is development speed and, therefore, affordable price. It won’t cost you a fortune, and it won’t last a lifetime. MVP includes a limited number of crucial features only; thus, it is time- and cost-effective.

why do you need to build an mvp?

Focusing on MVP development, you should be aware of several significant

The components of the process

MVP development starts with business analysis. At this stage, competent specialists investigate a market and analyze the chances for your app to succeed in a defined niche. Depending on the results of this analysis, the app’s prototype comes to life. A prototype is a graphical representation of your website’s pages and relations between them.

After a prototype is ready, the development stage starts. Software engineers build a part of website users can view on their screens (website’s front-end) and a server-side (or a back-end) responsible for all the details and processes behind the scenes, including app’s architecture, connection to the database, etc. Typically, the roles of front-end and back-end engineers are separated. However, there is an option to hire a team of full-stack specialists who can work with both parts of a web product.

Software testing and quality assurance run simultaneously with the development process. Qualified engineers make sure that built functionality meets your requirements and looks according to the approved prototype. They ensure your app to be convenient and intuitive for the end-user.

The team

Partnership with an experienced team is a cornerstone of your success. Typically, the dream team consists of 6 (and more) specialists and includes:

  • Business analyst;
  • UI/UX designer;
  • Front-end developer;
  • Back-end developers;
  • Manual QA engineer;
  • Project manager.

The size of a team may depend on your project requirements and time frames you’d like your project to fit.

In some cases, it may be enough to hire a single experienced full-stack engineer. Full-stack specialist plays the role of both front-end and back-end developer on a project. He or she has experience in a multitude of technologies and may build a full-feature app from scratch.

Shortlist features for MVP

MVP features’ number and complexity impact time and cost invested in the initial version of a product. Here, we present the list of must-have features for a simple anonymous social network app.

Access to network

First of all, decide what data you want to collect for signup and login. There are several options for that:

  • Let a user choose a unique nickname and don’t ask for any additional info;
  • Let a user signup and login using an email address only but don’t ever show email to other users;
  • Using location-based functionality, define user’s location and grant access only for people entering your app from certain regions

Devote some time to research and decide how to make authorization safe and fast.

User profile

Your app doesn’t collect user’s personal info. However, it doesn’t mean there’s no need to make them feel like home. Enable simple customization, let users choose a profile picture and background colors. Add the About Me section to help users meet new friends and interesting companions on your app.

Chats

Anonymous online communication may be the critical feature of your social networking app. Create a simple and intuitive design for sharing messages to provide a seamless user experience.

Self-deleting messages may become a considerable advantage. Take a look at how Snapchat implements it. Let users turn on the disappearing messages feature and set the timeframes. This feature will work well for any content shared on your anonymous social networking app.

Content sharing

Inspired by Whisper, you may add the visual content sharing features to your backlog. Here, a drop of creativity may be useful: demonstrate that your app differs from similar products, let users enhance their images with texts and thoughts, add editing features, entertaining features, animations, etc.

Feed

This is a massive web page that demonstrates content shared by a user’s network. It may be images shared by people from the neighborhood, thoughts published anonymously by co-workers, or discussions started by people with something in common. Let users customize their feed, participate in threads, etc. Hide posts users are not interested in and let them shortlist interesting people to show their updates at the top of a news feed.

Choose software development tools

Discuss this topic with your engineering team to come to the best decision. You may need to choose between the tools for:

This is not a full list of technologies to employ. However, this is a skeleton, and all the further choices depend on a tech stack you choose from the above-mentioned list.

Estimate development time and costs

Earlier, we’ve mentioned that MVP development is your chance to save time and cost significantly. Here, we’ll show you the real numbers:

  MVP Full-featured product
Development time 4-6 months 12 months+
Development cost $20,000 $50,000+

MVP allows breaking into the market rapidly, with minimum expenses. Later, when you raise funds and implement monetization, a chance to evolve your MVP to a successful full-featured app will arise.

Get acquainted with monetization methods

Most of the online social networks make money on ads. In a case with anonymous social apps, monetization may be a challenging question. You know practically nothing about your potential user; thus, there’s no chance to provide personalized ads. Monetization may turn into a headache; however, you’ve come to the right place to deal with it.

The solution is quite straightforward: study from the leaders and mix it with new ideas.

  • Whisper and keywords based approach

On Whisper, you can find a search bar and look for pieces of content you are interested in. This anonymous app uses keywords you type to show you related ads.

  • Yik Yak and extra features

Yik Yak, now shut down, once turned paid features to a source of income. If you are sure your app has something unique to provide users with, engage users with free features and then try to monetize your app with advanced paid functionality.

  • Selling goods or usernames

If you have your well-developed brand, selling brand products to your anonymous app users may become a source of additional profit. Selling funny, trendy, or catchy usernames may bring you money, too.

  • Gift exchange

Let your users exchange small gifts for well-thought quotes, beautiful photos, pleasant dialogues, etc. While typical social networks use Likes only, encourage people to share something more inspirational and personal than just a heart button under the post. In turn, charge your small fee per each gift. 

Ensure complete security for your users

Users come to your anonymous social media app for maximum data privacy and protection, so give it to them. Depending on the degree of anonymity you provide, choose specific tools and methods for data protection.

There are numerous modern tactics on how to protect data in the best way. Here, you can find the most popular methods to implement:

  • Geofencing

With geofencing, you can limit the access to in-app content for a stranger. Only users opening your app from a defined geographical region will be able to publish and discuss content. Targeting a defined group of users, you also get an opportunity to employ advertising as one of the monetization methods.

  • Encrypted messages

From the moment a user clicks the Send button till the moment another user on a different side of the screen gets it, a message passes through a long and dangerous tunnel. To protect it, encrypt the message’s content. Specific algorithms may change its form completely, lead it safely through potentially malicious digital spaces, and deliver it successfully to a recipient.

  • VPN

To emphasize the importance of a security topic, grant access to your app only via specific VPNs and proxies. It will help your users not only delegate their data protection to you but take care of it themselves. Software products like Tor may serve well here.

Anonymous social media app: should you really go for it?

Now when you’ve got a clear picture of anonymous social networking applications and how to build one, it’s time for drawbacks.

Anonymity stimulates a lack of responsibility. On websites when no digital footprints are tracked, users may feel untouchable and cross some moral lines and appropriate borders. Thus, this sort of websites may turn to a swamp of negative things like:

  • Offensive content

When no one can judge you, you can speak the truth. But what if this truth is harmful to other people? Anonymous social networks have an evil superpower of insulting people’s feelings, especially in a case with teens and young adults who depend on their network’s opinion. It may have a tremendous negative impact on mental health.

  • Cyberbullying

This major disaster of the XXI century finds prosperous conditions for growth in apps like Formspring, Ask.fm, and similar. Some of the cases even lead to teen suicides.

Cyberbullying is the reason one of the most promising anonymous apps called Secret was shut down. In turn, Yik Yak, the app we’ve mentioned above, started its closure because of this problem, too.

There’s a tried and tested way to minimize negative impact. Companies worldwide hire content moderators who control the publications and bans all the accounts demonstrating suspicious or aggressive behavior. Typically, they outsource content moderation. Mature industry leaders even implement AI and neural networks to detect, mark, and delete suspicious content.

However, that’s not always enough.

Offensive content and cyberbullying on anonymous websites led to consequences. Now, governments worldwide consider shutting the anonymous apps and blocking anonymous profiles. For example, London’s assembly considers banning anonymous social media.

For you as a startup owner, there’s another trouble: investors are rather unwilling to support your app’s growth. There are two critical reasons for that:

  • Investors don’t see clearly how successful in financial prospect your app will be;
  • Investors believe that an anonymous social media app may support harassment and cyberbullying instead of becoming a safe space for individuals.

Thus, you should think carefully about your fundraising campaign and demonstrate that your app has a dominant positive side and strong potential to make people’s lives easier.

But wait.

Does your social networking app really need to be anonymous?

Or you just have a defined goal to protect the user’s personal info?

There’s a thin line between those two types of apps. Sharing your idea with professionals in the social media app development world, with your business partner or even with your friends will help you to come to the right decision. Focus on finding your place under the sun in a prosperous niche, and outsource the potential worries to someone who can handle them.

Do you still have some concerns about the anonymous social media app? Or thinking about traditional online social network development?

Tell us about your idea, and let’s develop the best plan for your business growth together.

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