Over the weekend, a document written by a Google employee criticizing diversity efforts at the company and emphasizing biological differences between men and women went “internally viral.” And interestingly, much of the discussion around the document happened on an anonymous workplace chat app called Blind.
Blind, a Korean startup, announced in May that it had raised $6 million to expand to the U.S. after a soft launch in 2015. The app requires a work email address and bills itself as “the most exclusive, anonymous community app for tech professionals.”
It claims to have signed up more than 30,000 verified Microsoft employees, 13,000 Amazon employees, 6,200 Googlers, as well as workers from Uber, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Facebook, Intel, Apple, and more. Log into the app, and you’ll see a feed of chatter around interview processes, salary, diversity efforts, sexual harassment, and more. The app has been blocked on Uber’s company Wi-Fi, TechCrunchreported in February.
Blind is reminiscent of Secret, an anonymous chatting app that had a viral moment in 2013 after it caught on with Silicon Valley employees. Secret, which raised around $35 million in venture capital, identified users by their location but nothing else. It quickly turned into the techie version of the burn book from Mean Girls, targeting vitriol at specific people. It shut down after user growth slowed amid criticism of privacy violations and cyberbullying.
Secret, and other anonymous chat apps like it including Whisper, Kik, and Candid, pushed the idea that anonymity could give people cover to speak honestly in a way other social media platforms do not. Blind is now making the same pitch, although it uses a work email to identify users instead of location. Will it turn into a hive of scum and villainy? The conversation around the Google diversity memo included thoughtful discussion and links to research and news articles. But it also included racist, sexist, and just plain mean comments — “Diversity is stupid,” reads one from an Uber employee — exposing attitudes some employees feel cowed into keeping quiet about at work. In that way, apps like Blind are useful; they justify the existence of diversity programs by proving that sexism and racism are still alive and well in the Valley.