PostSecret founder Frank Warren, who receives hundreds of postcards and letters from strangers every week and posts about 20 of them on his blog on Sundays, said he's "pained" by the close of the PostSecret app, which launched in September. But its demise is due in part to its success.
"Although today--the first day after the death of the app--is painful, it was a wild journey being part of the life of this alternative social network," Warren told CNET, also sharing a few heartfelt e-mails from readers distraught over the news. "Anonymous acts of kindness and malice played out in a creative and complex online culture of 2 million shared secrets."
The PostSecret app let users take photos and upload 140 characters worth of "secret" to the PostSecret mobile community with absolute anonymity. And that anonymity is part of why it reached the top-selling spot in the app store.
"Unfortunately, that absolute anonymity made it very challenging to permanently remove determined users with malicious intent," Warren wrote on the PostSecret blog today. "99 percent of the secrets created were in the spirit of PostSecret. Unfortunately, the scale of secrets was so large that even 1 percent of bad content was overwhelming for our dedicated team of volunteer moderators who worked 24 hours a day 7 days a week removing content that was not just pornographic but also gruesome and at times threatening."
He said users complained to him, Apple, and the FBI about bad content. "Threats were made against users, moderators and my family. (Two specific threats were made that I am unable to talk about). As much as we tried, we were unable to maintain a bully-free environment. Weeks ago I had to remove the App from my daughter's phone."
Warren added that PostSecret fought hard the decision to close the app, even attempting to prescreen 30,000 secrets a day. "Deciding to remove the App from the App Store last week and holding back the release of the Android version cost us money but we feel it was the right thing to do."
The news was grim for many of PostSecret's app users: "Waking up to the @postsecret app shut down was a worse feeling than my hangover," Victoria Creamer tweeted.
And Facebook members responding to the news said they felt they had just lost a ton of friends. "I will always wonder about the beautiful woman fighting cancer that always had the kindest words to say in response to people's secrets. I will wonder about beard guy and assume he's still brightening people's days," wrote Facebook user Jess Lynn referencing posts she had read via the PostSecret app. "Thank you for the opportunity to take a look into the world Frank, and help me realize that I am blessed and privileged in a world where many people are not. It gave me a new sense of compassion for others."
Of course, Lynn and others can still read about others on the hand-curated PostSecret blog, which remains very much alive and has been since 2004. And Warren said he will continue to experiment with PostSecret project across new platforms, which in addition to the blog has included books, speeches, and art exhibits.