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Meet NGL: The new anonymous Q&A app that’s going viral

Instagram Stories is full of NGL messages, but what is it?

ngl app on instagram

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Remember YikYak? How about Whisper? Or Secret? Roughly ten years ago, these three anonymous messaging apps reared their heads, attracting users and controversy in equal measure.

They shared the same premise. Users could post messages to a circle of friends, or the wider public, without having to disclose their identity. 

Most people dismissed this concept as a flash-in-the-pan. Like a firework, they exploded and ignominiously fizzled out, making way for the next social media craze du jour. But now, it seems like the concept is enjoying a second breath of life, courtesy of the fast-growing Instagram app NGL. 

The idea behind NGL

ngl logo on purple background
Image: KnowTechie

The concept behind NGL is simple. You first download the iOS or Android app, connect your Instagram account, and receive a unique link to post on your Stories.

When your followers click the link, NGL prompts them to leave a message. This takes place within your followers’ web browser. 

Messages are anonymous. NGL allows users to reply to messages by posting another Instagram Story, effectively replicating the secretive Q&A functionality of sites like CuriousCat, FormSpring, and ASKfm. 

Derivative? Absolutely. NGL’s biggest — and, really, sole — differentiating factor is the use of Instagram, and more specifically, Instagram Stories. This approach lends well to discoverability, and therefore, virality. 

Speaking to KnowTechie, Apptopia’s Director of Communications Adam Blacker said NGL has amassed an estimated 11.6M global downloads since it launched on the iOS store in December 2021. The company launched its Android app in May.

Blacker said the majority of downloads come from American users, followed by Indonesia. It estimates the company has made $620,000 from in-app purchases since its launch. 

Mimicry is the best form of flattery, and NGL faces rogue apps trying to siphon its users. A fake version of NGL launched on June 28. It has already amassed 1.6 thousand downloads, mostly from users in Indonesia. 

Anonymous apps and user safety

yik yak

By virtue of being an anonymous messaging app, NGL will inevitably face criticism from parents, schools, and lawmakers. A common criticism of the anonymous messaging concept is that it facilitates cyberbullying and harassment. 

These fears prompted several US schools and school districts to ban YikYak. The company — which collapsed in 2017 — responded by implementing geoblocks, preventing users from accessing the app on school grounds. 

In 2014, ASKfm was linked to the suicide of Hannah Smith, a 14-year-old girl from Leicestershire, England. According to her father, Smith took her life after receiving a sustained torrent of abuse, which he claimed ASKfm facilitated. 

ASKfm conducted an audit into Smith’s case, which found little evidence of a sustained campaign of abuse. These findings were confirmed by the local coroner. A police investigation later discovered that many of the abusive messages came from Smith herself — a phenomenon known as self-bullying. 

Despite a lack of culpability, ASKfm responded by bolstering user safety features, making it easy to report and block abusive content, and bolstering its moderation team. Nonetheless, the episode damaged ASKfm’s public image.

Perfect timing for NGL

It’s worth noting that NGL’s rise comes after Snapchat banned several similar Q&A apps. These apps are linked to the suicides of several teens, and Snapchat is being sued by their families

This exposes a unique vulnerability for NGL. Its product hinges on Instagram and its access to Instagram APIs. It will take just one tragic event, and one tabloid media blitz, for Instagram to revoke its access, as Snapchat did with other anonymous Q&A apps. 

According to NGL, the company filters all comments and questions using “world class AI content moderation.” It claims NGL’s AI models can understand the contextual and semantic meaning of emojis, and has the ability to evolve with changing slang.

We do note that NGL is yet to publish its community guidelines — the rules governing the conduct of its users. In a footnote at the bottom of their website, it claims they are “coming soon.”

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Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Past work can be found on The Register, Reason, The Next Web, and Wired.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. pastyv

    June 18, 2023 at 12:10 pm

    With UtopiaP2P, I can chat with peace of mind, knowing that my data is safe and secure. This decentralized platform offers unparalleled privacy and security, thanks to its utilization of advanced encryption algorithms and the absence of centralized servers.

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