NGL, An Anonymous Q&a Messaging App, Exploding In Popularity On Instagram

Anonymous apps have long had a certain appeal to young people. They provide a sense of anticipation, a dopamine hit if the anonymous comments or questions are favorable. Will someone confess their feelings for you? Overloaded with compliments? One can only hope.

NGL is the latest to offer this experience – and has become extremely popular in recent months. Named after an acronym for “Not Gonna Lie,” the app debuted in November 2021 and has since racked up about 7.3 million worldwide downloads, according to Apptopia.

Most of those downloads took place in mid-June, making NGL briefly number 1 in Apple’s US App Store. It still ranks first in the App Store Lifestyle chart.

The app itself is simple: once downloaded, it sends a link that you can paste in your Instagram story or bio and invites your followers to send you anonymous messages. Then you wait for responses, which appear in an inbox in the NGL app. By clicking “reply” you can post the comments on your Instagram story.

“I saw only one person using it, then I saw three or four people using it in a day,” 23-year-old Tomás Mier told Insider. “I was like, ‘What’s going on? I haven’t seen this kind of anonymous question-answer stuff in years.’”

Indeed, NGL is not the first to capitalize on young people’s fascination with online anonymity. Its predecessors — services such as Ask.fm, Curious Cat, YikYak, Yolo and LMK — received mixed reactions.

Last year Snap suspended Yolo and LMK after being hit by a lawsuit involving a teenager who was bullied on the platforms for months and died by suicide. The pending lawsuit alleges that Yolo and LMK have broken consumer protection laws and that apps of their kind allow bullying to the point where they should be considered dangerous.

Meanwhile, rival apps Ask.fm and Yik Yak were plagued by claims they facilitated cyberbullying. Yik Yak finally closed in 2017, but has since returned.

Amid NGL’s newfound success, similar concerns are beginning to emerge. Although the website says it uses algorithms “to filter out harmful language and bullying,” NBC News tested the app and found a number of inappropriate phrases and bullying terms slipping through the cracks.

NGL did not respond to requests for comment.

Two users who spoke to Insider said they were not subject to harassment or cyberbullying, but basically: did receive the aforementioned torrents of compliments and confessions of feelings.

“With anonymous posts, it’s easier to quote ‘shoot your shot’ and not quote,” said Christopher Macias, 25.

“Someone told me they thought I was cute but they were shy. So I told them to swipe up (on my story) and they did,” he continued. “As soon as my schedule is free, we’ll get together.”

Macias received a few questions that he felt didn’t deserve an answer, but overall using the app was a good experience, he said. Most of the people who asked questions were people who were close to him, or people who wanted to be close to him, he said.

Mier, who said he’s gotten nasty comments before while using Ask.fm and Curious Cat, said he’d use NGL again if he’s looking for outside validation.

“I think there’s a bit of an ego thing — to think that someone might want to share something anonymously with you,” Mier said. “You feel good about yourself when you get messages that say ‘you’re really cute’ or ‘I’m really proud of you.’”