Sarahah the most popular new app in the Apple app store is designed to synch with popular social media services like Snapchat and Instagram, and lets users send anonymous messages to one another. The idea being that you could provide a co-worker or boss with some anonymous constructive feedback, or maybe even secretly tell your crush what you think of them.
This app is created by Saudi Arabian developer Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq and according to its description in the app store it “helps you in discovering your strengths and areas for improvement by receiving honest feedback from your employees and your friends in a private manner.”
The name Sarahah means “frankness” or “honesty” in Arabic and after spreading throughout the Arab world, it has now claimed the top spot on the list of free apps in the Apple store in markets like Australia, the US, UK and Ireland after the company released an English version in June 2017.
What was the need to create this app
The original idea of the app was to allow a way for more honest communication in traditional Arab communities with strict expectations around status. According to its developer as there are barriers like age, sometimes it’s the position, you can’t go to someone who is a grandfather and tell them everything you think about them. Breaking these barriers, that’s what everybody wanted.
Development for the social network started back in November 2016, when it was still a simple website and didn’t have an app. Its creator, who has a degree in computer science, wanted to get into app development when he came up with the idea.
The developer Tawfiq who himself works as a full time business systems analyst in a oil company in Saudi Arabia wanted to create such an app that would help employees provide unfiltered feedback to their employers. Tawfiq quickly realized that the service could be useful outside of a corporate settings. Friends might want to anonymously provide constructive feedback to each other as well.
So in the fall of 2016, he launched the website and began sharing it within his group of friends. But by the end of the year, he only reached a couple of hundred messages, and decided to try a new approach. Inspired by the so-called “connectors” in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point , Tawfiq decided to share the app with a friend who he considered to be an major influencer.
According to Tawfiq, the service grew from about 70 users to more than a thousand in the span of just a few days after he shared the app with his influencer friend. From there, it quickly “spread like a virus,” throughout other Arab countries.
Tawfiq decided to finally create an app version of the service. He hired a third-party company to help with the development and Sarahah went live in the App Store June 13th 2017. It was the first time Sarahah was available in English (as earlier it was in Arabic only), and the website received more than two million unique visitors a day for the first week.
Shortly after it hit the App Store, people all around the world began to notice Sarahah. The app started to gain traction in Canada, too. Tawfiq thinks it was bolstered by Arab expatriates living in Canada — and soon, that helped garner the attention of other users in western countries, including people in the U.S. and Australia.
The app then started spreading like wildfire among social media-addicted teens who were posting links to their Sarahah profiles to Instagram Stories requesting anonymous feedback.
While teens were already swapping Sarahah messages on Instagram, Snapchat rolled out an update that let users post links to websites inside of snaps. It took only a few days for Sarahah to reach a new level of popularity following the Snapchat update.
The app remains in the number one spot in United States, Australia, Ireland, and Great Britain, according to data from Sensor Tower. It’s also ranked number five overall in Google’s Play Store. (at the time of writing) According to Tawfiq, the app has more than 14 million registered users and is getting more than 20 million unique visitors a day between the app and website
Now, because he’s struggling to keep up with the technical demands of so many users, Tawfiq says he plans to leave his job at the oil company to focus on Sarahah full time.
What is that still bugs Sarahah?
First of all it’s widespread adoption by teens in the West has led many to suggest its use will likely devolve into trolling and bullying. But this isn’t the first time an anonymous messaging app has come under fire for cyberbullying. Other anonymous apps like Yik Yak, Secret, Whisper, and ask.fm have all tried and failed to build social networks relying anonymity. The key difference here is those apps never became popular at a global level, and none of them ever reached number one in the App Store.
Tawfiq notes that all social platforms face some version of these problems, and says he has been taking steps to minimize them, like filtering certain offensive words and allowing users to block people.
Also reviews on the Apple app store are filled with complaints about problems with the platform not working properly. The popularity of the app has been met with a mixture of responses online. Plenty of people are posting screenshots of the messages they’ve received via the app while others are complaining about that very thing clogging up their feeds.
Ultimately the time will tell whether this app boom will be maintained and will create a social network based on anonymity or will simply disappear as it has happened in past with short lived apps.
If you want you can download this app from iTunes all free and note that it requires iOS 9.0 or later compatible iPhone device to run the app all smooth.