Many people associate “disappear” apps like Snapchat with young people who want to send each other bong or boob shots. But kids are hardly the only ones who want to relay sensitive or silly messages without leaving a permanent trace on the internet.
That’s the thinking behind “Confide,” a new app aimed at professionals who want to message each other about job references, corporate intrigue or other subjects that could cause trouble if a written record landed before HR or the legal department. Messages sent via Confide disappear on reading and can’t be retrieved later.
Available for Apple devices as of January 8, Confide is the brainchild of Jon Brod, a co-founder of local news site Patch, and Howard Lerman, the CEO of marketing start-up Yext.
Brod says the app came about after Lerman contacted him by email about a potential employee who Brod did not want to discuss in writing. He suggested they speak by phone instead.
“We’re busy and it took us six days to connect,” he said in a phone interview, explaining why they created the app. “Professional relationships require tools for impermanence and confidence. We wanted to take the proven model of meeting for an off-the-record cup of coffee and bring it online.”
Brod added that Confide is different from Snapchat and other disappear apps in that it connects potential users through their email addresses, not by searching their phone contacts. This means that if someone sends a message to a person who doesn’t have the app, they will receive an email that informs them there is a message from the first person waiting for them in the app.
To address the issue of screenshots, which can provide a way to preserve disappearing messages, Confide uses a “wand” feature that requires recipients to pass their fingers over the message to reveal additional words. The app also includes a notice feature, common among other disappear apps, that alerts the sender if the recipient took a screenshot of the message.
Confide also includes another feature that might appeal to paranoid executives: end-to-end encryption that means Confide doesn’t possess a retrievable copy of the message. This means that both the company and users could respond to subpoenas or other disclosure demands by stating that the message in question is simply gone. As for the possibility that professionals could use Confide to skirt legal duties (such as by-laws that require them to preserve corporate communications), Brod said the app is simply a platform and that it would be up to individuals to comply with their obligations.
So will the app catch on? It’s hard to say, especially as the app space is being flooded with a spate of other disappear messaging tools, such as Wickr and Hash. For now, however, Confide appears to be the first squarely targeted at the corner office crowd. This could give it a leg-up, provided enough executives are using iPhones (the service is not available for Android or BlackBerry). Confide might also gain appeal given how Snapchat messages are becoming less temporary.
Confide is now available for free. Brod says the company has several ideas to make money but those are far down the road.