Whisper

Whisper logo

Whisper is a proprietary Android and iOS mobile app available without charge. It is a form of anonymous social media, allowing users to post and share photo and video messages anonymously, although this claim has been challenged with privacy concerns over Whisper's handling of user data.

Quick Facts

Summary

  • Ranked #59,401th worldwide
  • Active users 1.44 M
  • Type Anonymous Networks
  • Launched date Mar 31, 2012
  • Employees 56
  • Headquarters Venice, California, U.S.
  • Parent company None

Founders

person
Michael Heyward
person
Brad Brooks

Networks

  • Brand value In 2020 N/A
  • Revenue in 2020 N/A
  • Net loss In 2020 N/A

Current Controversies

The Whisper app has been criticized for requiring access to smartphone features such as the camera and the user's contact list, which is disclosed when the app is downloaded on the Android platform.

The company's privacy policy reveals that it will turn over information in the case of requests from law enforcement in order to comply with applicable laws for enforceable government requests such as a subpoena.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's attorney Hanni Fakhoury commented in early 2014 that while Whisper may have no legal choice in the matter, "it's the doublespeak that's problematic." Fakhoury elaborated that: "You have to be very careful about selling a program as a secure way to secretly communicate, and then reserve the right to turn over that information whenever necessary."

Your Voice

Whisper Text LLC claims to have set up a companion nonprofit for its users called Your Voice, which, according to its website, is "dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues on college campuses".

The site claims to provide resources and support for college students dealing with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sexuality and LGBTQ issues, bullying, suicide prevention, and stress management.

The website provides links to various services run by other organizations, but offers no services of its own. The contact telephone number on the website to call for help is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Technology

Development of the system was outsourced to Inaka, a web and mobile app development consultancy based in Seattle, Washington and Buenos Aires, Argentina. The original system back end used the Riak NoSQL database, but after performance problems with Riak the system was converted to use MySQL and Apache Cassandra. Since 2013, Whisper has brought its technology team in-house. Whisper now has 25 engineers in Venice, CA.

In Mar 2016, Fast Company reported that Whisper had recently begun to use deep learning to build a content moderation tool, internally dubbed the Arbiter. The article stated that the Arbiter runs on a PC with 128GB of RAM and four Nvidia GeForce Titan X graphics cards, each of which has a graphics processing unit with 3072 computing cores and 12GB of RAM. Those GPUs enable it to perform artificial intelligence and use neural network technology to assess incoming whispers.

The article noted that because Whisper's Arbiter has knowledge to "reflect both the real things that millions of Whisper users have said and how moderators handled them, its understanding of language can be remarkably subtle."

According to the Los Angeles Times, Whisper is also using AI technology to create content. That system, the Times reports, "allows Whisper to gather related posts about issues at work, school or in relationships. Then, it organizes them, adds context and even writes a headline... With the AI's help, Whisper hopes to produce more content than humans alone could — which in turn could mean more readership and ad revenue."

Original Idea

original ideaoriginal idea

The app is the main product of the media company WhisperText LLC, which was co-founded by CEO Michael Heyward, the son of the entertainment executive Andy Heyward, and Brad Brooks, who is the CEO of mobile messaging service TigerText.

Whisper is one of the fastest growing media companies, generating over 17 billion content views per month. Prior to Whisper, the LA native worked in different roles related toconsumer-based marketing at startup TigerText. As a teenager, Michael was an avid Formula One racing fan and secured the United States commercial rights for the sport.

In 2014, he was named one of Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” and one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business.” Michael is a frequent keynote speaker and has spoken at a number of prominent conferences, including WSJ D, Fortune Tech Brainstorm, TechCrunch Disrupt, and Business Insider Ignition.

In 2016, Michael was named one of AdWeek's "Young Influentials".

Brief History

2013
Apr WhisperText LLC received its first round of venture-capital funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners for $3M.
Sep A second round of funding from Sequoia Capital, Trinity Capital, Krum Capital, and Lightspeed for $21M.
2014
May Whisper confirmed that it raised an additional $36M in venture funding from Shasta Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Thrive Capital, and Lightspeed Ventures.

Whisper has raised $61M in total venture capital funding.

2015
Sep Adweek revealed that Coca-Cola was using Whisper to market its #makeithappy anti-cyberbullying campaign to Whisper's users.
Oct Whisper announced a partnership with the Ad Council on the "I Am A Witness" anti-bullying ... partnership with Disney and Pixar​, starting with the promotion of the 3D animated movie The Good Dinosaur.
2016
Feb Mashable and Teen Vogue announced that Whisper had partnered with Giphy to allow GIFs in the chat section of its platform.

Whisper also announced the launch of the Spanish-language version of its app on both iOS and Android devices, with an initial launch in Mexico , and in March, Whisper partnered with the It Gets Better Project in Mexico ( Todo Mejora México ) on a campaign to empower LGBTQ voices in Mexico.

Apr The app launched Whisper Polls , whereby brands can question potential consumers, the users, about various types of opinions, preferences, and interests.
Jun Whisper announced that they would be introducing video ads , and started on July 3 with a partnership with Universal Studios ' to promote the movie The Secret Life of Pets.

Whisper also added a "Groups" function, which allows users to curate Whispers under different topics, and to connect with other users who have shared interests.

2017
Feb Whisper announced its partnership with HBO to promote the TV series Big Little Lies, and also embarked on promotional partnerships with Dove soap and Universal Music Group.
Mar TechCrunch reported that Whisper launched a tool for publishers called "Perspectives," which is a video widget that publishers, primarily news websites, can embed within articles to feature Whisper content.
May MTV partnered with Whisper to promote the 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards.

The Tronc media company, which publishes the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, began using Whisper's content widget on its websites.

Network Features

Using Whisper

Terms and conditions specify that users must be 17 years of age or older to use Whisper. The app is exclusive to Android and Apple platforms. There is a desktop version of Whisper but it has limited functionality and it doesn’t allow you to post any Whispers.

Features of Whisper

What makes Whisper different from other social networking apps is the fact that users don’t have an identity when using the service. There are no followers, friends or profiles. The app does use people’s locations and allows users to add a school or group but it doesn’t ask for photos or email addresses. Users cannot use the search function to search for other users.

The primary way of communicating with someone on Whisper is by responding to their Whispers. This can be done by sending your own Whisper or through the chat function. It should be noted that it is much more difficult to maintain your anonymity through the chat or private messaging function.

The Audience

The AudienceThe Audience. (Photo via whisper)

Whisper certainly has more than its fair share of promiscuity and impassioned teen angst, but users also include deployed soldiers, loving spouses and those who support LGBT pride. Secrets run the complete emotional spectrum, from mundane to hilarious to heartbreaking.


Privacy: Since Whisper claims it doesn’t store its users’ personal data, you can’t search for users, view others’ profiles or see who "hearts" your whispers.

Setting Up: First things first — create a profile. You need a unique handle, but the app isn’t connected to any of your other social media profiles, unlike others that encourage a login via Facebook or Twitter. Consider creating a username you've never used elsewhere, if you want to maintain complete anonymity.

To further protect your privacy, Whisper requires a four-digit pin number every single time you access your history, or “Activity” — i.e., to view or delete your whispers, whisper engagements and direct messages.

Creating a Whisper

To add a whisper to the real-time “Whisper-verse,” touch the round plus sign at the bottom of the screen.



You can view whispers on the site, but can only create and engage with them via the mobile app.

Text

TextText. (via whisper)

Enter your text in one of four fonts and arrange it on the screen. The text pops up centered. If you’re going for engagement, keep in mind that whispers in the form of questions often generate the most replies.

Choose an image

Choose an imageChoose an image. (via whisper)

Here you have three options. As soon as you enter your text and hit “next,” Whisper automatically chooses an image.

If you hit “search” at the bottom, however, you can also search for a specific image. If you hit “camera” at the bottom, you can use an image from your personal camera roll, if you’ve given the app access.

Tags

TagsTags. (via whisper)

Whisper automatically adds tags to your message. You can add to them, too, although Whisper is fairly comprehensive. They function just like tags on Tumblr or hashtags on Twitter, categorizing your work and allowing people to find it more easily.

The Site

The SiteThe Site. (via whisper)

There are times when you might want to browse Whisper on your computer, instead of your phone. The responsive site shares many similarities with Tumblr, including one main panel to display whispers. A number of trending tags, such as #FriendZone or #SometimesI, are displayed on the right. You can share whispers on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Pinterest.

Set Your Location: If you’ve enabled location services, you location will generate alongside your whisper, which takes your anonymity down a notch. Tap the pin icon in the upper left-hand corner to choose your location — your options range from specific store locations to the entire state.

If you don’t want to broadcast your location, tap the pin icon, scroll down to the bottom and hit “don’t show my location.”

Post: Hit “post,” and your whisper will go live. You can tap on “Latest” to see your whisper in the feed. (More on that below.)

Flagging: Anonymity doesn’t mean you can post whatever you want. If multiple users flag your whisper as inappropriate, it’ll be deleted.

Search: Like other platforms, you can search for whispers by specific locations or keywords — this is where tags come into play.

Engagement

Tapping on a whisper brings up three options: “heart,” reply and direct message.

Similar to Instagram, double-tapping an image awards a heart to the whisper. Yes, you can heart your own whisper.

Users’ replies are public, also in the form of a whisper. Tapping on any given whisper makes it easy to scroll through replies. You can award hearts to replies.

Direct messaging used to be an in-app purchase, but now it’s free. Like Twitter, it connects you with a fellow user for a one-on-one conversation.

And if you want to send your whisper via email, text or to a social media site, hit “share” in the bottom right-hand corner.

Organization: On the app, you can scroll among four viewing options: Featured, Popular, Nearby and Latest.

Latest: These list real-time whispers, aggregated from all Whisper users.

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