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Uncover Your Anonymous Chat Partner With Backchat for Android

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Instant messaging has certainly come a long way since the 1990s. Once dominated by giants AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo, the IM landscape has shifted towards cross-platform, multimedia-focused applications like iMessage and Hangouts. Besides prettier graphics and desktop notifications, though, not much has changed: instant messaging is still the utilitarian form of communication it was two decades ago. At least, that was probably 14 year-old Daniel Singer’s thought when he designed Backchat, an app that uses IM as a vehicle to turn the concept of digital anonymity on its head.

Backchat, which launched as Backdoor on iOS last summer, is a playful answer to the troubling questions posed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s and others’ revelations. Basically, you start a chat with either a Facebook or Google+ friend, and then try to deduce who you’re talking to using free and in-app purchased “clues”. It almost seems like a commentary on the state of privacy in the US, an invitation to step into the shoes of a government agent by connecting pieces of digital metadata to narrow down an identity. It’s both fun and terrifying.

Backchat has skyrocketed in popularity recently; the app attracted investor attention, and in December of last year secured $200,000 in funding. It’s definitely worth a download, but don’t be frightened by how few secrets you’ve managed to keep from your internet buddies.

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  • http://revengeofthepc.com Ethan Madison

    A kid in my school made this. All of his apps are about talking to people anonymously. It’s kind of sad.

  • Taylor Abrahamson

    The explanation of the app is basically non-existent in this article. How does this relate at all being a government agent? Why would someone pay for a “clue” about who they are chatting with when they could just ask the person they’re chatting with for a clue. Does the random person have to be using the app too, or are they using their own normal chat app (FB messenger, or hangouts) and they are unaware that you don’t know who they are?

    If I was to be randomly assigned a person to chat with and had to determine who they were the first obvious thing to do is just ask “what’s your name” but lets assume we don’t do that for some “fun”. The first thing I would ask is are you a male or female? What city do you live in? What do you drive? With those three answers it should be pretty obvious who they are. So why would you bother doing that at all?

    I’m not trying to say that the app is completely stupid, because I haven’t tried it and don’t know how it works. But the lack of any details of the application in this article just makes it sound completely stupid. The article needs to pull people in and intrigue them by first giving the catch. In other words, what makes it fun? Why is it difficult? What are the limitations?

    For example (I made this up): You must determine who you are ‘connected’ with by only drawing pictures back and forth, and the app has OCR built in so you can’t write on the drawing board.

    Now that sounds somewhat challenging and I’d be willing to try it out.

    • Kyle Wiggers

      This is how it works: “Basically, you start a chat with either a Facebook or Google+ friend, and then try to deduce who you’re talking to using free and in-app purchased ‘clues’.” You’re like a government agent in that you’re using data scraped from your mystery friend’s profile to uncover their identity.

      Edit: There is nothing to prevent your friend from giving away his or her identity. It’s just a silly game.

      • Taylor Abrahamson

        Do they also not know who you are? So you both have to be using the app? Is the winner, the person who guesses who’s who first? If both of those answers are ‘yes’ then they should have been mentioned. That makes it sound like much more of an intriguing game. In other words you can ask questions, but you have to be careful that your question doesn’t give something away about yourself.

        • Kyle Wiggers

          There isn’t a formal way to “win”, but that’s one way you could use the app. Backchat is more a little twist on anonymous IM than it is a game.

  • Wyveryx

    So basically you’re wasting time by playing charades, only with words….OK….boring.

  • thedonxr

    Two words…. Layman’s terms….

  • Foo

    Let me get this right: I chat with my friends anonymously, and then I pay money to find out who this friend is?

  • T S

    well. all i have to say to this is. . .GET OFF MY LAWN!!!

  • Jason Kahn

    I 100% support the promotion of developers, but many of the articles written lately by the new staff writers seem like canned advertisements with little to no critical review, and you get the feeling the writer has never actually tried the app.

    • Kyle Wiggers

      It’s a preview. I have tried the app, but I don’t feel qualified writing a review unless I’ve had more than a few minutes of hands-on time.

  • Ryan B

    So, its a game…

  • capecodty

    iMessage is cross platform? I thought it was only osx and ios. I guess that technically is cross platform, but since AOL, yahoo and Microsoft messagers all worked on Mac OS and windows I don’t get your point.

  • Intellectua1

    Am I the only one who had to read this more than once and still don’t understand the concept?!? Either I’m an idiot or I’m just getting old..

    • Jeff C

      Same here…I think I’m just getting old.

    • Mike Aurin

      It’s not you…its the topic.

    • Kyle Wiggers

      You start an anonymous chat with one of your Facebook or Google+ friends, and have to guess the other person’s identity with “clues” provided either free or for a fee. Now, why you’d want to in the first place, I have no idea…

      • Jason Kahn

        Your reply in one sentence proves the comments made by ,Mike Aurnin and Keith below correct.
        IMHO the post was overly worded and nearly incomprehensible, the sentence above is all that was actually needed.

        • Kyle Wiggers

          Agreed. I made a few edits to make the post more readable.

          • Ben Myton

            Just to be clear, have you played this “game”? If so, why no screenshots of the interface, discussion of your take on the game, thoughts on the in-app purchases, or recommendations on how easy it is to find friends already playing?

            The only actual commentary on the app I saw in the article was “It’s both fun and terrifying”.

          • Kyle Wiggers

            This post is more of a preview than review, but that’s not to say I won’t write something more exhaustive in the future. I need time to mess with it.

          • Ben Myton

            I see. We are all eager to hear what you think once you’ve had a chance to try everything out.

          • Kyle Wiggers

            Thanks.

  • Prime7

    Not my cup o’ tea. If I want to know who I’m talking to, I just ask.

  • Mike Aurin

    New Droid Life rule…Only Tim, Eric and Kellen are allowed to write articles. Some of these new contributors are really not hitting the mark with the general demographic around here and it shows in the comments.

    • elemeno

      +1

    • Mike Aurin

      Let’s be clear. I’m not bashing the writing style, professionalism or personally attacking any of the new contributors. It’s solely about the content they are reporting on. I am curious if they are moderated by any of the “Big 3″ because the articles are a bit of a change in the style of Droid Life.

      • Keith

        I guess I am. :P

    • Keith

      There’s a lot of fluff too. You can more often than not hit delete on the entire first paragraph and lose zero information.

    • Green

      I think they’re doing fine. Have to have some background information, you know? Makes it interesting. Do I have an interest in this particular app? No, but I think the new guys are doing great.
      My other “problem” with you? Is that a Brady jersey you have on? Bronco fan here. :) My daughter, the Pats fan, has to stay in her room Sunday. :)
      Should be a good game. SF and Denver in the SB.

      • Mike Aurin

        Win or lose its always an absolute pleasure watching those two greats go at it. Both have limited time left out on that field so I love to see them compete as often as possible. Good luck Sunday, my friend.

        • Green

          I agree. I got to see Peyton play here in Baltimore (I really dislike the Ravens). Awesome game (we won). We went to the Pats’ training camp this year and got to see Brady toss the ball around (hubby is from MA). Enjoy the game, Mike!

          • LocBox

            Eagles.

    • Ian

      They have to start somewhere…

    • LocBox

      At all smh. .

    • NemaCystX

      Since when did someone appoint you as Droid-Life queen? err um I mean King…. /s

  • chris_johns

    I’m lost

  • Philip J. Fry
  • John Legere

    Sounds like an app for pedophiles

  • shkrmkr79

    1. I’m not a tween.
    2. No thanks.
    3.Sounds like a game…
    4.DO YOU WANT TO PLAY A GAME???

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    • Detonation

      Am I the only one that thought the tricycle was a huge penis on first glance?

  • jimt

    I don’t get it. Did I miss something?

  • MKader17

    Maybe I’m just not pre-teen enough to understand this app…

    • joseph barrientos

      im with you, don’t really see myself using.

    • hfoster52

      It’s tween get it right *SLAMS DOOR*.

    • Kyle’s Sweet Hair

      Maybe you just need a sweet Bieber-esk haircut like Kyle to udnerstand.

      • Kyle Wiggers

        Nice account.

      • NemaCystX

        well his haircut is better than Biebers, plus he’s cuter