Stolen, the app that had many social media users bemused when it sprung up out of nowhere recently, has just as quickly vanished.
In the short period it managed to operate, Stolen was like a viral storm in a teacup. Although it had just 40,000 active users, some claimed to be addicted to the app that turned Twitter profiles into trading cards for participants to purchase and sell using in-game currency.
Stolen turned all of Twitter’s 250 million profiles (including yours and ours) into tradable commodities, offering a higher price for those deemed worthy (Tim Cook, Taylor Swift, Barack Obama) and less for others. The longer a player owned a particular profile, the more its individual price would depreciate. Users could also snatch accounts from each other if they had enough currency to do so (in-game cash could be earned by playing or through in-app purchases).
Despite only being offered to verified Twitter users at launch, Stolen managed to climb into the top 20 social networking apps in the Apple App Store within days. There were reports of users selling their invitation codes on eBay and Twitter users clamouring to get their hands on an invite. Then, just as quickly as the hype had escalated, it all came to an abrupt halt.
In the end, concerns over user privacy forced Stolen’s founder, and head of Hey, Inc., Siqi Chen, to pull the app from the App Store. A tweet from Stolen — a venture that initially took pride in labelling itself “literally the worst app” — stated: “We’ve heard everyone’s concerns and have decided the best thing to do is to shut down.”
According to Chen, the outcry on Twitter (where people who didn’t even play were alarmed at notifications telling them their profile had been “stolen”) was too worrying to ignore. Additionally, an interview with Chen also brought to light the fact that players were posting abusive comments on profiles they had acquired via the app.
“Our goal with taking it down…has just been to make sure we stop what is happening — that we stop the harm, real and perceived, that people are getting from the existence of our product,” Chen told The Verge. “We didn’t spend hours and months, sweat and tears to build something like this and have people see it this way. This is not who we are.”
Despite Stolen being the developer’s last-ditch attempt at manufacturing a hit, Hey, Inc. has no plans to revive the app in the future.