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Secret's out: CEO shuts down app

After going public just over a year ago, the struggling anonymous-messaging app is shut down by CEO David Byttow.

David Byttow, Secret CEO: "First of all, you have to define what a secret means." Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

It's no longer a Secret; the once popular secret-sharing app is shutting down.

After much speculation, Secret co-founder and CEO David Byttow tweeted Wednesday that "with a heavy heart" he is shutting down the struggling anonymous-messaging app. Byttow said he removed the Secret app from the App Store "and we're taking steps to permanently delete all content and data imminently."

Byttow's decision comes just more than a year after the company, which promised users anonymity when they shared secrets with friends and strangers, went public, in February 2014. It raised about $35 million in funding.

Byttow told TechCrunch in March that he had no plans to shut down the app, which had begun to resemble rival Yik Yak. But in a post Wednesday on Medium, Byttow said that after consulting with the company's board, he decided to shutter the company.

"Unfortunately, Secret does not represent the vision I had when starting the company, so I believe it's the right decision for myself, our investors and our team," he said. "I'm extremely proud of our team, which has built a product that was used by over 15 million people and pushed the boundaries of traditional social media."

The app was created by Byttow, formerly of Google and Square Wallet, and ex-Google+ product manager Chrys Bader-Wechseler in 2013. But after generating a lot of buzz and notoriety -- the app was banned in Brazil , where the constitution explicitly prohibits anonymous free speech -- its popularity began waning as rival anonymous apps Yik Yak, After School and Whisper dominated the market. In January, Bader-Wechseler left and other key figures soon followed.

Byttow also tweeted Wednesday that "My father once told me that the art of attending a party is knowing when to leave. That's certainly resonated with me the past few days." Byttow also appeared to address criticism about the app facilitating trolling and cyberbullying.

"I believe in honest, open communication and creative expression, and anonymity is a great device to achieve it," he said. "But it's also the ultimate double-edged sword, which must be wielded with great respect and care. I look forward to seeing what others in this space do over time."

Byttow said most of his workers have already moved on. He will spend the next couple of weeks winding down the company and return any remaining funds to investors, which include heavyweights Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Google Ventures.

"I believe the right thing to do is to return the money rather than attempt to pivot," Byttow said. "Innovation requires failure, and I believe in failing fast in order to go on and make only new and different mistakes."