App: Speakle Platform: iPhone, Android Website: Speakleapp.com Cost: Free (requires registration)
There was a time when the Internet was almost entirely anonymous. If you wanted to keep yourself hidden from the masses, you could. You can still do that, but with social networking it is increasingly more difficult to do so. With that comes the burden of having your friends and family members see nearly everything you post.
Former University of Houston grads Saika Momin and Sadiq Momin think they have the answer with Speakle, a kind of social media for the anonymous app that promises to keep your identity hidden, but still allowing you to participate in discussions with others. It's like an old school chat room or online forum before Facebook and Twitter took over.
You might be thinking that if you just stay off those social networks, you won't ever have to worry about it. Sign up to Twitter with a pseudonym and you're good to go. The problem is that you must follow people and have people follow you for your thoughts to reach any audience. Even blogs in the early days of blogging when they were essentially online diaries have very limited readership.
In the case of Speakle, you can, theoretically, add your voice to comment threads and even create your own for a faceless audience never having to reveal who you are.
The Internet has demonstrated this type of anonymity can lead to some wonderfully creative and moving moments like those found at PostSecret.com, but they can also lead to the uncomfortable and even disturbing comment sections on news blogs (like this one) and other websites.
While Speakle doesn't aim to censor, it's terms and conditions -- something all registrants must agree to from the beginning -- afford participants the protection from defamation, but it's hard to imagine policing a site with hundreds, thousands, even millions of posts.
The big question is not whether Speakle can do what it has intended. A quick browsing of the interface, which is sophisticated and slick, would seem to indicated this is a well thought out app that should follow through on its promises. The question is whether or not it can find an audience and when it does, how does it handle the complications that come with it, nevermind how to monetize it.
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In many ways, Speakle is Twitter for the nameless, which certainly has a place in a world increasingly dominated by those who not only don't mind being known, but actively seek it out. Plenty of us would love to rant about our true feelings on any number of topics without having to answer to our friends and family -- or crazy stalker guy for that matter. But, the problems inherent in this kind of thing will need to be closely monitored.
If people believe they really can say anything they want without fear of reprisal, they often do and the results can be extreme. Making sure people don't get completely out of hand will be a full time job. Then there are issues of privacy that may or may not extend to legal proceedings. Are subpoenas in the future for Speakle's creators when one of their users really does defame (or worse) another?
But that's assuming the app draws in the numbers of users it will need to rise to that level. And if it does, how do they handle the bandwidth issues? Twitter went through plenty of growing pains in that regard.
Still, Speakle is a well developed app and it seems to address a very specific niche. That combination often spells success for any app that follows that formula. In this case, it would mean success for a pair of Houstonians, which can't be a bad thing. Give it a shot. It's actually fun to speak your mind without your great aunt seeing your potty mouth. For that reason alone, I could see myself using Speakle with regularity.