There was a time when netizens occupied what used to be “Ask me anything” and “Like for a truth.” These anonymous confession trends have essentially become NGL, which is an app where users receive anonymous questions from friends, but a recent lawsuit alleges that may not be the case.
NGL’s gadget was meant to be simple. Users could sign up for the app and receive anonymous questions through the app’s inbox. The main appeal of NGL was that it offered integration with Instagram, so users could post a prompt (in the form of a link) for anonymous questions and answer them through their Instagram stories. The app also had a feature where the user could receive clues as to the identity of those who asked them questions for the low price of $9.99 each week. It was good clean fun that brought Millennials and Zoomers back to the days of Formspring and “Like for a truth” Facebook posts, but a lawsuit filed earlier this month in California Superior Court in Los Angeles County not only alleges that NGL could be snatched from another app, but also accidentally reveals that these two apps are cheating their users to believe that they are really in touch with their friends.
Raj Vir is a software engineer who was hired under contract in September 2018 by Iconic Hearts to help develop an app called Sendit, which is an anonymous Q&A app with Instagram integration. Sound familiar? The deposit, which was obtained by TechCrunchexplains that the first Sendit app is called “sendit — get it now”, released in November 2018, while the second Sendit app is called “sendit — Q&A on Instagram”, which was released on June 21, 2022. For reference, NGL was launched on November 7, 2021 as seen on the app website, seven months after Vir was offered a full-time position at Iconic Hearts. The complaint insinuates that Vir did not accept this offer and Vir’s website seems to corroborate this as it makes no mention of a full-time stint at Iconic Hearts. Iconic Hearts claims in the filing that Vir used his access to confidential Sendit app data and information to create his own similar app, which became NGL.
“Vir used his friendship with Iconic Hearts founder Hunter Rice and his role as a consultant and developer for Iconic Hearts to deceptively gather information about Iconic Hearts and sendit apps,” the filing said. “Based on information and belief, Vir did this so he could revive NGL.”
Alas the story does not end there. Iconic Hearts alleges that one of the specific pieces of information Vir used to create NGL was “engagement messages”, a proprietary notification system Iconic Hearts developed to ping users after periods of reduced activity. . However, the language used in the filing indicates that these messages take the form of fake questions, which may lead a user to believe that they received a question from an actual human. Iconic Hearts says in the complaint:
Iconic Hearts had also developed a unique system, “Engagement Messages”, which sends content to a user’s inbox if interactions with the user had been inactive for a certain period of time. “Engagement message” retriggers a user to use the app. This generates more “shares” on the app, more density within a user’s trending network (i.e. more people sharing more times), which adds to the saturation of an application, the most critical measure of success and growth.
This confirms that Sendit apps use automatically generated notifications to increase app usage, and alleges that NGL does the same, but does not specify that these notifications are fake questions. TechCrunch, however, investigated this allegation by posting two links from each app to solicit questions from users on Instagram, before immediately deleting the posts. Although no one sees these links, TechCrunch says they still received a series of questions from each app.
Iconic Hearts and Raj Vir did not immediately return our request for comment.