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Anonymous Social Networking: the Next Hotspot?

06-03 00:00 《财经》杂志 《财经》杂志

  By intern reporter He Shulong

  “Wumii,” formerly known as “Mimi,” is an anonymous social networking software based on interactions with contacts in one’s address book. A user does not need to register to use the application.

  The Android version of Mimi was launched March 26, and the app’s iOS version landed in the Apple Store on April 4. Mimi, being suspected of copying popular U.S. social networking app Secret, was removed from the Store by Apple about a month later (May 8). The app, which was renamed Wumii, made it back to the Store on May 20 and disappeared once again only a few days later.

  Compared with real-name social networking products such as WeChat, momo, and micro-blogging services, Wumii is like a masquerade party wherein everyone wears a mask. Anonymity means users can speak out freely without any misgivings, as they are not held accountable for the veracity of their remarks. All the anonymous comments users can see are from their contacts and their contacts’ friends. If an anonymous comment is “liked” or shared by someone, more people will be able to see it.

  The domestic anonymous social networking sector did not cool off after Wumii was taken off the shelf. On the contrary, it welcomed a spate of new users.

  In addition to Wumii, Simiquan, Hehe, Qiaoqiao, and other anonymous social networking products based on interactions with real-world acquaintances (similar to Secret), there are also anonymous social networking products that focus on interactions with total strangers (similar to popular U.S. anonymous sharing app Whisper, which does not require users to import their address books), such as Xiaosheng and Weimi.

  Even Internet giants such as Tencent, Alibaba, and 360 have entered this market segment. However, unlike startups that have bet all their time and resources on anonymous social networking, the Internet giants are unlikely to put the new business in strategic positions in the short run; rather, they would only try it out on a small scale as internal projects.

  An entrepreneur told Caijing that Secret’s market cap has reached US$50 million, and Whisper’s has registered up to US$200 million, predicting anonymous social networking products’ broad prospects.

  Despite Whisper’s larger market cap, most domestic anonymous social networking apps have adopted Secret’s model, because a) Mimi’s immediate success has drawn domestic entrepreneurs’ attention to anonymous social networking with acquaintances; and b) Whisper’s model, which does not require import of users’ address books, is of little appeal to domestic entrepreneurs, because it can hardly form strong relations that can make an app go viral in a short period.

  Samy, who works for Tencent’s microblogging service, told Caijing that Secret’s latest Android version already offers dual sources of information: in addition to anonymous remarks posted by one’s contacts, now one can also see popular anonymous remarks worldwide. In some sense, Secret has taken a page or two from Whisper. Therefore, the possibility that Whisper may one day learn from Secret and ask users to import their address books cannot be ruled out.

  In other words, Secret’s and Whisper’s models will probably integrate in the future. By then, a common challenge confronting anonymous social networking apps will be to create a favorable environment that encourages honest communication while eliminating negativities associated with rampant defamation.

  Several industry insiders told Caijing that the anonymous social networking sector, which has attracted startups, mid-sized companies as well as Internet giants, will probably generate a company the size of WeChat or momo. Compared with WeChat and micro-blogging services, anonymous social networking products require smaller investment and enjoy greater returns on investment. In addition, once an oligopoly is formed, remaining players could cash in through offering value-added services or games.

    Full article in Chinese:http://magazine.caijing.com.cn/2014-06-02/114229478.html

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