New app will make office gossip a force for good

In the past, watercoolers were used as a place for co-workers to gossip about so-and-so away from prying eyes.

Now, more workers are using apps that allow them to gossip about their companies anonymously. Blind is one of the latest to gain mainstream attention in recent years as it became popularized by Silicon Valley employees. In July, Blind said employees at Uber, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, among others, spend an average of 41 minutes a day on its app.

Blind works as an anonymous message board where employees can dish dirt on their companies, competitors — and co-workers.

Secret, anonymous messaging is not a new invention. Sarahah, an app named after the Arabic word for “honesty,” has been leading Apple’s app store for months. Anonymous messaging app Yik Yak, for example, raised $73 million in venture-capital funding in 2014 on this idea. But anonymity can bring out the worst in us. Yik Yak ran into problems with 9-year-olds and college students being cyberbullied on its platform, causing controversy, lawsuits, and eventually leading to Yik Yak’s demise.

What makes Blind different? The company said it can succeed where its previous competitors have failed based on its exclusivity.

Got a problem about work? Tech employees go to Blind to talk about it

Blind, which originally launched in South Korea, is only available in the U.S. to the top 100 tech companies. Although you have to use your work email or your LinkedIn profile to verify your identity, Blind said that its patented security technology will anonymize your identity, so that not even Blind’s servers know who you are.

And apparently, that pitch works. Tech employees are trusting in Blind and moving their sensitive conversations there.

An anonymous Microsoft employee told Forbes that Blind can give valuable feedback around product launches, because people can stop being polite and start being real.

“There’s definitely some cheering and warm feedback, but there’s also that kind of raw criticism that we sometimes lack in the official channel,” this Microsoft employee said. “I feel that there are senior people using the app, so those people I’m sure use the feedback and make the changes as necessary because it’s different from sending an email blast where nobody would step up to give their criticism.”

At its best, gossip can be a knowledge-sharing tool that you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. When your company is undergoing a crisis, it can feel more freeing to talk about how you really feel away from your company’s offices or servers. When Microsoft was undergoing layoffs, employees took to Blind to talk about it. After Susan Fowler wrote a takedown of Uber’s work culture that alleged sexual harassment, Uber employees were spending over three hours on average on the app, Blind told Ladders.

For now, Blind is expanding one company at a time. Time will tell if the app can go mainstream beyond disgruntled, anxious tech workers.