Ghost’s new anonymous group messaging app has ChatGPT baked in | TechCrunch

Anonymous social apps have a history of transforming stalking and harassment, and ultimately, their failure. But a new startup called ghost he believes that putting additional guardrails around the anonymous experience will allow users to have fun, without the usual pitfalls. To test this theory, the company has now launched its Ghost messaging app which allows users to share an anonymous message in a group chat with friends in order to flirt, joke or ask questions without revealing their identity. The app also includes a number of other features, including the ability to ask ChatGPT a question directly within the group chat, among other things.

The idea, explains the founder of Ghost Cem Kozinoglu, was to make something that was fun to use but still respected the user’s desire for privacy. To achieve this, the app uses something called “Ghost Protocol”, which is a system that uses zero knowledge tests on the end user’s device.

This way, the app knows who has access to a given group chat, but Ghost, the company itself, does not.

Thanks to his entrepreneurial background, Kozinoglu understands the motivations of social app users. Prior to Ghost, the founder worked as Director of Mobile at GIPHY after the company acquired its startup/slash keyboard backed by Techstars. He’s seen the latest trends among teen apps, but believes there’s potential to make social anonymous in a safer way without enabling bad behavior.

“We started playing with this concept, and it also fits very well with the name ‘ghost’ because of the anonymity,” explains Kozinoglu. “But we also know there is a dark side to anonymity. [There are] these outgoing applications – Gas [which was acquired by Discord], Slay, and just focus on cutting chat and giving positive feedback to your teammates… what we’re doing is like “Gas meets Discord.” We want to add different flavors of anonymous messaging,” says Kozinoglu.

For example, one anonymous message type that Ghost allows is anonymous crushes. A user could tell the group that they have a crush on someone without the sender revealing their name. Then, if the other person is also in love with them, they could have a private chat, similar to Tinder.

Image credits: ghost

In a group chat for a school classroom, anonymity could allow students to ask questions among peers who may or may not be close friends.

There are also hidden messages that allow users to see who they care about most, as the sender gets an alert about who has revealed the message.

Meanwhile, “Guess Who” messages initially hide the sender, allowing users to guess who sent the message.

Image credits: ghost

Not all of these anonymous message types are live yet, but Kozinoglu says the Anon Crushes feature should be ready to ship next week.

To add anonymity protections, Ghost uses a moderation system that automatically removes any Ghost message (anonymous message) if at least two people report it. If the same bad actor sends two self-reported ghost messages, the app will block their anonymous identity in that particular group chat. That is, the application does not block the user himself from the group chat, only his ability to post anonymously in the group. (In fact, the app itself doesn’t even know which user to block due to its use of the Ghost protocol. It only knows which anonymous identity to restrict.)

Finally, if the 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 also appears alongside other features, such as the ability to be online but invisible, which is called Ghost Status.

Image credits: ghost

Their group chats are limited to 50 users so they don’t get too big, like Telegram. The idea is that users should know each other somehow. This also applies to users allowing the app to access their contacts, and we found there’s no way to bypass this permission request.

Another fun and timely feature is the ability to use ChatGPT (the ChatGPT-3.5-turbo model) from the group chat, which allows users to ask the chatbot questions and interact with the bot as a group.

“He is one of the first [use cases of] ChatGPT multiplayer within a group chat, Kozinoglu said in a follow-up email. “It is fully aware of the context. It has been one of the most used features,” he added.

Image credits: ghost

Kozinoglu says the goal isn’t to replace other messaging apps, necessarily, but to make itself known for the format it’s introducing.

“In the case of Snapchat, they owned messages that disappeared,” he notes. “In our case, we want to own anonymous messages, any kind of anonymous messages, and be an alternative place where it’s fun. It’s fun to be anonymous. It’s fun to be able to talk to others and allow yourself pure freedom of expression.” , says Kozinoglu. The latter is especially important to the Turkish founder, who knows firsthand the difficulties of being able to express oneself under a government rule that represses freedom of expression.

The company behind Ghost, Catch Social, was founded three years ago, but had originally been developing a different product focused on adding chat to a wallet-to-wallet cryptocurrency app. A previous co-founder, also from GIPHY, had worked on this project but left the startup about six months ago. There are now nine employees, including two contractors.

So far, 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 being spent on customer acquisition; Ghost is doing it a lot of TikTok marketing. But Kozinoglu says they’ve brought Ghost’s customer acquisition costs down to 15 cents per install and are now focusing more on working influencers, not just running ads.

With the increased demand for ChatGPT following the release of GPT-4 and Microsoft’s news surrounding Bing, Ghost is focusing more on its own ChatGPT features, which it calls “Ghost Question.” The startup is waiting for access to ChatGPT 4, Kozinoglu notes.

The app had a waiting list of over 50,000 registrations prior to launch. Ghost has since attracted 30,000 installs following last week’s public launch and now sits at around #50 in the US App Store’s social media category.

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