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PostSecret is a community art project curated by Frank Warren. On its website, people are encouraged to put their secrets on a post card and mail them to Warren, who posts ten cards of his choice to the site every Sunday.
Frank Warren, a former small business owner from Germantown, Maryland, registered the domain name PostSecret.com on October 6th, 2004. Over the next month, Warren left 3,000 postcards at local restaurants, bookstores, theaters and train stations instructing people to contribute to his group art project by leaving a secret they had never told anyone on the blank side of the card. That November, Warren set up an exhibit of the 150 cards he had received at Artomatic, a local multimedia arts exhibition held every few years in Washington, D.C.
Even after the end of the exhibition, people continued to mail secret postcards to Warren, inspiring him to launch the website via Blogspot on January 1st, 2005. At the beginning, Warren would line up the postcards in his home and take photos of them instead of scanning them. By August 2005, PostSecret had received 5 million hits and 3,000 post cards from around the world.
Precursor: Confession Blogs
While PostSecret is not the first confession blog, it was the first to incorporate the aesthetic appeal of the postcard medium into sharing personal details of one’s life. The earliest known confessional blog has been attributed to the text-based site NotProud, which was first launched in 2000 to curate user-submitted secrets that are sorted into seven different categories. Other early adopters of user-submitted confession blogs include GroupHug.us, which assigns random numbers to confessions in case users want to interact with each other anonymously, and Confess-it, which allows users to anonymously submit audio recordings of their confessions.
Possible Murder Confession
On August 31st, 2013, Warren posted that week’s secrets containing a postcard of a Google satellite map with the text “She said she dumped me but really I dumped her (body)” and a red arrow pointing to what appeared to be a wooded area (shown below) . After posting the secret, he tweeted a question, asking whether or not Redditors could help track down more information. Nearly immediately, the image was submitted to /r/WTF where it received 391 upvotes, 314 overall points and 173 comments tracking the map down to Jackson Park in Chicago before it was removed by a moderator for posting identifying information.
Following the removal of the /r/WTF post, the subreddit /r/PostSecretCrimeInfo was created, gaining nearly 100 subscribers in 24 hours. On September 1st, the Daily Dot reported on the postcard and the ensuing conversation over PostSecret’s responsibility when receiving cards that potentially break laws. The same day, the Chicago Tribune reported that a search team had scoured Jackson Park but they did not find any evidence of a dead body.
The first news program to discuss Frank Warren’s project was NPR’s All Things Considered on March 30th, 2005. Later that year, PostSecret was featured on the Guardian, CoolHunting and the Washington Post. It was also named one of the 50 Coolest Websites of 2005 by TIME Magazine. By November 2005, Warren had published his first book compilation of postcards. That same year, actual secrets from the project were printed in large format and used in a music video by American rock band All-American Rejects.
Over the years, PostSecret and Frank Warren have been featured on the Huffington Post, Neatorama, USA Today and Mashable. The site has also won multiple Weblog Awards and seven Webby Awards. In addition, parodies of the blog have been featured on CollegeHumor and Celeb Post Secret.
As of May 9th, 2012, PostSecret has an Alexa global rank of 15,547 and US rank of 3830, Compete score of 10,757 and a Quantcast rank of 9185. On Facebook, PostSecret has 1,148,556 likes and has 487,623 followers on Twitter. As of February 2012, PostSecret is the most visited advertisement free blog in the world and Warren has received more than 500,000 postcards.
The Post Secret Community (shown left below) was founded in July 2007 as a message board for fans of the site to discuss featured posts and share secrets of their own on an in-depth level. The community also hosts meet ups and provides an outlet for fans to interact outside of confession-sharing. Since Warren does not keep secrets on public display for longer than a week, several now-defunct sites created their own archives including a Tumblr blog, a Flickr, and a Blogspot. PostSecretArchive.com (shown right below) and a second Tumblr are currently archiving secrets, both using searchable tags to collect cards on the same topic. Tumblr users can also share secrets that they have saved via the tag #PostSecret.
In 2007, a secret about a lost camera found at the music festival Lollapalooza encouraged Canadian student Matt Preprost to start a blog called I Found Your Camera, which allows its visitors to submit found photographs in order to return them to their proper owners. The blog was covered on Digital Journal and CNN in 2008, as well as in Warren’s TED talk in 2012.
Confession blogs have also grown popular on Tumblr, with a directory containing hundreds of links to fandom-based sites. Additionally, there are hundreds of confession threads archived from 4chan and at least eight different subreddits where Redditors can share their secrets, including one specifically for PostSecret.
In September 2011, Warren released a paid mobile app that allows its users to anonymously share secrets and post comments through their iPhones. On January 1st, 2012, Warren removed it from the App Store, stating that the malicious content on the site became overwhelming for its volunteer moderators and that he had removed the app from his daughter’s phone over a month earlier. Before its removal, the app had taken the top spot in the store with 30,000 secrets per day and 2 million overall shared with the tool. The discontinuation of the app was covered by Cnet, the Washington Post, Mashable and MSNBC.
Chicago Tribune – Search turns up nothing after anonymous postcard tip of dumped body