Anonymous social apps are turning their attention to Instagram after the Snapchat ban – Root Devices

Anonymous social applications Targeting teenagers hasn’t disappeared because of a new Snapchat policy that banned the integration of this kind of social experience with its developer platform earlier this year. Instead, apps have simply found a new way to reach young people: via Instagram. In recent weeks, new apps like Sendit for Instagram and NGL have introduced anonymous question and answer apps that allow users to post “ask me anything” questions on Instagram to receive anonymous answers from friends. Teenagers flocked to apps that both climbed to the top of the App Store after launch.

History has shown that such social experiences are usually problematic. Online anonymity among teenagers often leads to bullying and abuse. Snapchat, for example, eventually decided to suspend anonymous apps on its platform after families whose teenagers died of suicide sued it several times after being bullied in Snapchat-related anonymous messaging apps. Legislators and regulators have also pressured social platforms to introduce more safeguards for their youngest users.

However, as today’s focus is primarily on how Big Tech is tackling online security issues for younger users, independent apps like Sendit and NGL have been able to fly under the radar. And just like the anonymous apps that were before them, they took off quickly.

According to Sensor Tower, the anonymous Sendit question and answer app for Instagram launched on June 24, 2022 and immediately recorded 117,000 installations in the first two days, reaching 3rd place in the U.S. App Store. The app now has somewhere north of 150,000 installations, Sensor Tower says, but exact estimates are not available. Another company, (formerly App Annie), sees the app with 266,000 downloads for iOS, but it doesn’t have the data on Google Play.

Since then, he has changed his name to Sendit – Q&A on Instagram. also found that the app achieved first place at launch in the social networking category and in non-gaming apps in general in the U.S. App Store from June 23, 2022 to June 28, 2022.

Image credit: (opens in a new window)

The same company that stands for Sendit for Instagram also manages a version of Sendit designed for Snapchat that has more than 18 million lifetime installations and has generated more than $ 11 million in consumer spending to date, Sensor Tower said.

Meanwhile, the anonymous NGL Q&A app launched on December 10, 2021 and has experienced more than 3.5 million installations to date, Sensor Tower data show. It first reached number one in the U.S. App Store on June 16, 2022, and has now exceeded $ 1 million in consumer spending. estimated that its downloads were even higher – around 5 million.

However, there are concerns that these applications do not necessarily work in further ones.

For starters, Sendit for Instagram users complained in reviews that the app originally advertised to them as “Sendit Reveal” in the pre-order phase. The company, according to estimates, has promised a new Sendit app that will reveal which friends sent anonymous messages. Apparently this was a big draw for the young users of the app as everyone wanted to know who said what.

Image credit: Send (application data via Mobileaction)

Screenshots of the App Store from the time also confirmed that this is the case.

The marketing strategy worked. Users’ demand for “Reveal” helped install the app, which was then renamed Sendit after launch – for Instagram.

The founder of Sendit Hunter Rice did not directly address this issue when he came for comment on the bait and replacement technique to gain users. He suggested that covering this on our part was a “bait for clicks”.

“There’s a lot of great stuff in what we do that’s worth the news,” Rice told Root Devices. “You can have fun with this topic, and I’m only interested in the real news,” he said.

But an analysis of the App Store reviews at least shows that users felt they were misled by the previous brand and expected a much different experience.

Image credit: Submit reviews on Instagram as analyzed via Sensor Tower

The company behind Sandit, Fullsenders (now also called Icon Hearts on its website), experienced another viral hit with the Push It app last year. The social app has also climbed to the top of the App Store. At the time, users complained that the app used bots to send them fake questions to answer – things they knew their friends would never ask, they said. Rice then denied the use of bots.

The flagship version of the Sendit app had similar complaints about bots, as did its new version of Instagram. App Store reviews are again full of users who question the legitimacy of the origin of the questions.

Image credit: Submit reviews for the Instagram App Store

The new NGL app, which is essentially a clone of Sandit, also allows users to post anonymous questions and answers on Instagram. To make a difference, the app advertises its “world class” [sic] Moderating Content with Artificial Intelligence, ”which claims to filter out bullying and harassment. (A recent Forbes investigation found that the app had a hard time blocking explicit British slang and French, Spanish, and German swearing.)

As it turns out, among the 68,000+ reviews of the App Store app, there aren’t many complaints about bullying. But many people are afraid that bots are asking them false questions here as well. Much like the concerns consumers have expressed about Fullsenders apps, many NGL users insist they see questions they feel weren’t sent by their friends. In particular, the app charges users a $ 10-a-week subscription to “reveal” who submitted a question. Users also complain that this paid service only offers hints, such as what kind of phone the user has or what area they live in.

NGL did not respond to a request for comment.

Root Devices tested both apps, NGL and Sendit – for Instagram. We copied the customized links and posted them on Instagram Story, which was only shown to “Close Friends,” and then immediately withdrew the post so no one would see it. This tricked the apps into thinking we posted our link so friends could respond. A few hours later, both apps sent us a series of questions to be sent by “friends”. The questions were harmless, such as “the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?” (Send) or “what was the best day so far this year?” (NGL), for example.

No one had access to the links we created, so these were obviously automated messages.

We asked Instagram if any of these apps were integrated into its platform using Meta developer tools governed by its platform policies. Meta has so far been unable to provide this information.

Apptopia app notification company told us that it is currently only visible in NGL, and found that it uses the Facebook SDK in its version of Google Play, but not in the iOS app. Neither Sensor Tower nor had visibility in the components of any application, they said.

Because apps only offer the ability to post links to stories, they don’t necessarily depend on the technical integrations offered by Meta developer tools to work. This means that they would also not be liable for Meta policies for developers related to anonymous messaging applications.

Meta’s policy seems more forgiving than Snap’s, as it allows anonymous messaging if apps offer a blocking feature. (Policy section 8.8.2.a states: “Pages or applications may not allow personal messaging, forwarding, or interactions that disguise user identities without allowing individual users to block other users in the messaging experience.”) Meta’s policy also bans bots in its spam department (8.8.2.b).

Recently, Meta seemed to be taking action against NGL when users began reporting that Instagram was removing links to the NGL app from its Instagram Stories. But Instagram told us that NGL had access to the link feature “by mistake” and that access has been restored since then.

These Instagram-related mobile apps are coming at a time when Snapchat wants to tighten up the way third parties use their platform tools. This change could affect Sandit’s grip. The app has benefited from Snapchat’s previous ban on the anonymous Yolo and LMK apps cited in the lawsuits. Now, however, Sendit is among those supposed to be banned on the platform under Snap’s new developer policies. (Snap told Root Devices last month that it gave Sandit more time to comply with its policies after the developer requested an extension.)

Investing in an anonymous consumer social space almost never pays off in the long run. The web is full of failed anonymous social apps that had to be shut down due to bullying and other problems, including, Yik Yak, After School, Secret, Yolo and Sarahah.

In previous years, app stores themselves have even taken action against apps that offered an anonymous messaging experience. Sarahah, for example, has been banned from both Google Play and Apple’s App Store on charges of inciting bullying. Today, Apple insists on a set of protections for every app that includes user-generated content, but generally doesn’t ban an anonymous social category.

It’s not clear if app stores will take any action regarding these new anonymous apps despite misleading their young users about the nature of bot-powered inboxes that don’t really come from friends.

Without established policies, there will always be a new group of developers willing to risk long-term success for short-term profits. In fact, business models for this latest group of applications depend on a lack of policy and regulation in this market.

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