Diffr app lets users message as friends or anonymously

By Brittney Nadler

For the friend who wants to gossip without gaining a reputation, the roommates who want to remind each other to clean without the confrontation or the classmate who wants to vent without turning the group against them — a new messaging app, Diffr, makes it all possible.

Diffr allows users within the same group to message while pretending to be others in the chat otherwise known as “spoofing,” or messaging anonymously. The idea of the app was created after developers discussed the aspects of a conversation.

“When people talk with each other, the conversation is not just about expressing one’s opinions or sharing information, but also about discussing the views of other people on a topic, taking a dig at friends, speaking with the promise of anonymity and so forth,” wrote Mahesh Rajagopalan, co-founder and president of Myndbee Inc., in an email. Myndbee Inc. is Diffr’s founding company. 

“Diffr is what Captain Jack Sparrow would have developed if he had to create an iMessage or WhatsApp — liberating and irreverent but in a nice and fun way,” he wrote.

Planning for Diffr began in January after Rajagopalan and a few friends came up with the idea while hanging out at a bar in Dallas. They remembered the conversation a few weeks later and began seriously considering what could be done.

The team finalized features and started developing the software code, Rajagopalan said, and it took about five months to get the product to market. 

“The app may very well be used for something that none of us have any inkling about yet, and that is part of the fun of developing something like Diffr,” he wrote. “We look forward to hearing about the ways in which our users on campus use the app.”

The team realized there was no mobile app where users could express what they really wanted to say without fear of what their friends might think. There wasn’t an app where friends could pose as each other or be anonymous in the same chat.

The app has been compared to Secret and Yik Yak apps, but Rajagopalan said what sets Diffr apart is that it is a chat app where all spoofed and anonymous messages can only be sent to friends. 

“No messages are spread through social chains where you don’t know who may read them,” he said. “And accountability is implicit since your chat groups consist of friends explicitly added to the chat.”

MaryEllen McGann, senior in LAS, is a campus representative for Diffr and said she and her friends use the app constantly.

“Group texting is so popular among U of I students that now it adds a new way to communicate and have fun with friends,” McGann said. “I have also found it great to be used for roommates. Sometimes it’s nice to use the anonymous feature to remind roommates to clean up, pay the month’s rent or remind of upcoming monthly bills.”

McGann is part of a team of 10 students who promote the app around campus. They meet weekly to plan events, such as the recent events held at KAM’S and Orange Leaf, or the pizza parties held at dorms and campus buildings, she said. 

“So far, the response has been fantastic,” McGann said. “U of I students already have a great sense of humor, so this is another way to mess around with them. Diffr has the features to cater to each type of group text that makes it useful and fun to use.”

Eleni Murphy, senior in LAS, is also a campus representative for Diffr and uses the app with her friends. She said the spoofing feature is “all in good fun.”

“It’s funny and irreverent, but without the threat of edging on bullying,” Murphy said. “It’s a great way to have some lighthearted fun with your friends.”

Murphy said she believes Diffr will continue to gain popularity, especially because people are “always looking for new, exciting apps to distract themselves with.”

“I think the humor really fits into our Midwestern, we-don’t-take-ourselves-too-seriously persona here at U of I,” Murphy said. “It’s only a matter of time before it catches on everywhere else.”

Brittney can be reached at [email protected]