A popular anonymous social app that was misleading its users with fake messages has been forced to change that. top ranked app NGL1 app on the US App Store in June, quietly rolled out an update yesterday that now notifies users when they receive messages that aren’t from their friends — as users previously believed. was inspired to do. Previously, NGL sent these fake messages as a means to build engagement, then charged for “signaling” about the sender of the message.
The app has now also reduced its subscription price which promises to reveal details about who is behind the anonymous messages.
NGL is one of a handful of anonymous social apps that recently shifted its focus to Instagram after Snapchat cracked down on apps of this nature by using its developer tools, to minimize the harm Snap’s minors face. As part of the wider efforts of
To use NGL, users can tap a button in the app to copy a unique URL that they can share with friends and followers on the web.
While Snap may be rolling out direct integration with its own developer tools, NGL users can still copy and paste special links into their Snapchat Stories or wherever they choose — like Twitter or any other app. However, the “Share” button in the app made it easy to post directly to Instagram Stories. Then, when other people saw the link on their friend’s story or post, they could click on it to ask that person a question anonymously. These questions will appear as messages in NGL’s in-app “inbox” for users to read and answer.
However, NGL had up its sleeves. If users do not get any engagement on their shared link, the app will automatically generate the message. Users had no real way of knowing that these messages were actually fake questions the app was sending them. But many suspected that was the case because the questions sounded like their friends wouldn’t ask. (We confirmed the message to be fake by creating an NGL link, but did not share it. Then we received the messages).
NGL’s app reviews were full of complaints that its queries were coming from bots. Worse yet, the app developer was charging users for a “hint” to learn more about who was asking the question. This means users were paying for hints about bots in some cases! This can be considered fraud. (We would recommend affected users to request refund from apples.)
The NGL app got its idea from rival Sendit, a similar social app that also offers a variety of Snapchat games. In fact, the creator of Sendit is now suing NGL for stealing its ideas – the NGL developer previously worked on Sendit before only realizing its potential to clone the idea and make money on its own. As it turns out, there’s some business to be had here. As of July, NGL had topped 15 million downloads and generated $2.4 million in revenue from selling its subscriptions.
Meczyki.Net had called out NGL for its deceptive tactics and apparently, someone was listening. (In fact, we understand that there was a discussion between the developer and Apple about this). NGL has not commented.
Yesterday, NGL released an update that now sees it labeling its fake messages with a tag that reads “Sent with ️ from NGL team.” This is to indicate that the message is not from a friend, but from the app itself. (Arguably, the wording could be clearer. Some users — especially those in their target market of young adults — might interpret this tag to mean the message is being delivered only by the app.)
These messages don’t even show the subscription prompt. In addition, the subscription cost was reduced slightly from $9.99/week to $6.99/week, and now includes other features beyond the “hint”. For example, it will give users “early access” to exclusive games in addition to anonymous Q&A. One of the paid games is already included – an unnamed Confessions game.
The app’s rival Sendit’s Q&A feature worked in much the same way and it, too, just updated its subscriptions. Now, instead of just charging for hints, Sendit can reveal the “Diamond Member” sender’s name and Bitmoji (in some cases), access exclusive games, unlock a custom icon, and more from the experience. May remove ads, claims app. However, it still costs $9.99 per week.
Although the viral buzz around these apps has waned a bit, they continue to rank high. NGL is the number 9 app on the US App Store’s lifestyle chart and Sendit is number 12 on the social networking app.