Ghost introduces an anonymous group messaging app with ChatGPT
Image sources: Spirit
Anonymous social apps have a history of intimidation and harassment that ultimately led to failure. But a new startup called Ghost believes that putting extra protective barriers around the anonymous experience will allow users to enjoy themselves without the usual drawbacks. To test this theory, the company has now launched its messaging app Ghost, which allows users to share anonymous messages with friends in group chats to flirt, joke or ask questions without revealing their identity. The app also includes a number of other features, including but not limited to the ability to ask ChatGPT a question directly within a group chat.
The idea, explains Ghost founder Cem Kozinoglu, was to create something that is fun to use but still respects the user’s desire for privacy. To achieve this, the app uses something the app calls the “Ghost Protocol,” a system that uses zero-knowledge proofs on the end user’s device.
That way, the app knows who has access to that group chat, but Ghost—the company itself—doesn’t.
Thanks to his entrepreneurial background, Kozinoglu understands the motivations of social app users. Prior to Ghost, the founder served as director of mobile at GIPHY after the company acquired TechStars-backed startup /Slash Keyboard. He’s seen the latest trends in teen apps, but believes there’s room for anonymous social activity in a safer way without enabling bad behavior.
“We started playing with this concept, and because of the anonymity, it also went very well with the name ‘ghost,'” explains Kozinoglu. “But we also know that anonymity has a dark side. [There are] these applications appear – Gas [which was acquired by Discord], Slay – and they’re just focused on interrupting chat and giving positive feedback to their peers… what we’re doing is like ‘Between Gas and Discord’. We want to add different flavors of anonymous messaging,” says Kozinoglu.
For example, one type of anonymous message allowed by Ghost is anonymous crushes. A user can tell the group that they have a crush on someone without the sender revealing their name. Then, if the other person falls in love with you, you can chat privately, just like Tinder.
There are also hidden messages that allow users to see who cares about them the most, as the sender is alerted to who revealed the message. “Guess Who” messages, on the other hand, initially hide the sender so users can guess who sent the message.
Those types of anonymous messages aren’t available yet, but Kozinoglu says the Anon Crushes feature should be ready next week.
To protect anonymity, Ghost uses a moderation system that automatically deletes Ghost messages (anonymous messages) if at least two people report them. If the same bad actor then sends two ghost messages that are reported, the app will block the anonymous identity in that group chat. That is, the application does not block the user himself from the group chat, only from posting anonymously in the group. (Actually, the app itself isn’t can which user is blocked for using the Ghost protocol. That just (knows which anonymous identity it restricts.)
Finally, if a bad actor is reported in three different groups, resulting in their anonymous identity being banned, they will no longer be able to use “ghost mode” in any group chat.
Ghost branding appears alongside other features, such as an online but invisible ability called Ghost Status. Its group chats are limited to 50 users, so they won’t be too big like on Telegram. The idea is that users need to know each other in some way. This is done by requiring users to allow the app to access their contacts – and this permission request cannot be skipped.
Another fun and timely feature is the ability to use ChatGPT (the ChatGPT-3.5-turbo model) within a group chat, allowing users to ask the chatbot questions and interact with the bot as a group.
“This is one of the first [use cases of] multiplayer ChatGPT within a group chat, Kozinoglu said in a follow-up email. “It’s completely context-aware. It was one of the most used features,” he added.
According to Kozinoglu, the goal is not necessarily to replace other messaging apps, but to become known for the format they have introduced.
“With Snapchat, they had messages that disappeared,” he notes. “In our case, we want to have anonymous messaging — any flavor of anonymous messaging — and we want to be an alternative place where it’s fun. It’s fun to be anonymous. It’s fun to be able to talk to other people and allow for pure free speech,” says Kozinoglu. The latter is particularly important for the Turkish founder, who knows firsthand the difficulties of expression under government regulations that violate freedom of speech.
The company behind Ghost, Catch Social, was actually founded three years ago, but originally developed another product focused on adding chat to a crypto wallet-to-wallet app. A former co-founder, also from GIPHY, worked on the project but left the startup about six months ago. There are currently 9 employees, including 2 contractors.
To date, Ghost has raised $8 million in two rounds of seed funding from investors including Slow VC, Coinfund, General Catalyst, Betaworks, DreamMachine, Afore VC, 186 VC, D4 and various angels , such as GIPHY founder Alex Chung, Wayne Chang, Jeff Siebert. , and others.
Some of that money is now spent on customer acquisition – Ghost does a lot of TikTok marketing. But Kozinoglu says Ghost’s acquisition costs have been reduced to 15 cents per install, and they’re now focusing more on working influencers, not just running ads.
Due to the increased demand for ChatGPT after the introduction of GPT-4 and the news about Microsoft’s Bing, Ghost is putting more emphasis on its own ChatGPT features, which it calls “Ghost Question”. The launch is waiting for ChatGPT 4 access, notes Kozinoglu.
The Ghost app had a waiting list of over 50,000 subscribers prior to launch. It has since attracted 30,000 installs following its public launch last week and is currently hovering around No. 50 in the US App Store’s social networking category.