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For the First Time, Anonymous App Whisper Is Not One-Size-Fits-All

Personalization is a tricky thing in the land of anonymity.


The popular anonymous sharing app Whisper today is getting its first dose of personalization. But personalization is a tricky thing in the land of anonymity.

Whisper CEO Michael Heyward said he wanted to figure out “how to make your Whisper different from my Whisper different from my mom’s Whisper” without uploading users’ address books, which would spoil the app’s approach to anonymity.

(Competitor Secret, by contrast, is totally address-book-oriented, as it’s built to connect people to their friends while concealing the identity of individuals.)

Heyward also didn’t want to make Whisper users fill out profiles about their interests. That’s another part of Whisper’s M.O.

But personalization was increasingly needed as Whisper grew, because the app often seems to be all about teen breakups or some topic that doesn’t interest many people outside of that demographic.

So with those self-imposed limitations, Whisper is now redesigned to show related posts immediately after someone submits a new secret.

It’s kind of a way to say wherever you are, somebody else feels your pain. Or just a way to find other people to talk about the same TV show or sports team.

The related Whispers will only kick in for the 50 percent of Whisper users who share anything, Heyward admitted. Lurkers will never see the feature.

The updated app will also algorithmically sort Whispers into 200 browsable categories and help people zoom all over the world to see what people are whispering about in different locations (but not precise locations, because that wouldn’t be anonymous).

The new Whisper is available on iOS today and should be on Android in two weeks, Heyward said.

Also, for the occasion of this launch, Whisper is confirming a funding round we’d reported earlier. The details are $36 million raised from Thrive Capital, Shasta Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Tencent. Why raise so much money for a mobile app? “We’re in this for the super, super long haul,” Heyward said.

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