You’ve probably heard a whisper of a secret that anonymous messaging apps are hot right now. Behold the latest: Rumr, a group chat app that tells you who’s in the chatroom, but doesn’t show who’s saying what.
Rumr uses a color scheme to provide what co-founder James Jerlecki calls “sliding scale anonymity.” Participants are each assigned a different color chat bubble, and the colors are shuffled around whenever someone joins or leaves the group.
If your group is too small, it will be easy to figure out who’s who, but Jerlecki said in an interview that at around 4-5 participants, the anonymity starts to work.
The exact use case for this messaging environment escapes me. Or maybe I just have a hard time seeing past the obvious use for teen bullying. When I asked Jerlecki for examples of how Rumr should be used, he suggested a thread for a March Madness bracket or a group chat during the Oscars.
“It’s good for conversations that are inherently funny. Who can come up with the best jokes? Good for conversations that are hard to have in person.”
According to Jerlecki, Rumr fills a space that other anonymous messaging services lack by adding necessary context.
“The biggest issue with anonymity so far has been context. General use of anonymity has been one-way to an audience that I don’t have a connection with,” he said. “By giving this a layer of context – people I know, trust, and care about, I now have an environment to…be myself.”
The result is an “inherently more emotional” experience where you don’t have to worry about crafting the perfect message or status update, Jerlecki said.
With a name like Rumr, it’s easy to assume that the app is designed to let people spread gossip. However, Jerlecki claimed that the “primary use case is not gossip by any means.”
With respect to bullying, Jerlecki assured that the startup has put a “great deal of thought and time” into the issue. The team expects the fact that you always know who’s in the chatroom should keep maliciousness from getting amplified like it does on other services.
Jerlecki also suggested that the anonymity could result in constructive communications for teens by enabling them to ask questions and share things they might not have felt comfortable about in a real-name setting.
Group creators can remove unruly members from a chat, and users can also contact Rumr to request a review of offensive content. The app is also text-only at launch.
“Our goal for launch was to do one thing and do it incredibly well and build from there,” Jerlecki said, noting that features like stickers and photos could make their way into the product eventually.
Rumr arrives with a high-powered set of investors on board from a seed round it raised last October, including MG Siegler from Google Ventures, Ben Ling from Khosla Ventures, Paul Bricault at Greycroft, angel investor Paige Craig and textPlus CEO Scott Lahman. The founding team met while working together at textPlus.
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