As the internet and social media become increasingly personalized, it’s now easier than ever to stay in your bubble, and consume news and opinions that resonate with your personal world view.
But Chicago startup Anonymous Opinion Platform, or Aop, is hoping to change that. They make a mobile app that allows users to answer more than 4,000 multiple choice questions about politics, lifestyles and other topics to see where their views stack up amongst others.
Aop, founded by Kaben Clauson, CEO, and Arsen Gevorgyan, CTO, keeps every user’s identity anonymous by providing them with an identification number. It doesn’t ask for a user’s name or contact information. It only asks for basic demographics like age, gender, race, the region they live in and their political affiliation. And it only lets users express themselves in polls, where the question and answers are already written for them.
“If you give people keyboards and freedom, trolls will poison it for everyone,” said Clauson, who has a background in data analytics.
He said him and Gevorgyan thought of the idea during the 2016 election, when especially divisive politics were polarizing people across the country.
“Leading up to the 2016 election, there was a lot of talk about some of the challenges of social media from people losing friends, and people feeling like they couldn’t be honest on social media,” Clauson said. “Social media is a great place for a vacation photo, a job update, a baby photo. Twitter is great for news, but there’s really not a great place to post opinions at scale and with total honesty.”
The company launched in early 2017, but came out of beta mode only in September. Operating out of tech incubator 1871, Aop now has 16,000 users with over 10 million votes, and Clauson said their user base continues to grow.
“We felt that most people want to express themselves honestly, and there’s not a lot of great places to do that,” Clauson said. “Even with friends, it can be difficult.”
But the app isn’t just for expressing political views. Other topics extend from health and food, to entertainment and relationships.
Questions range from “How do you act around someone you have a crush on?” to “Would you support or oppose a law that puts people in jail for littering?”
Aop writes some of their own questions, but users can also submit questions they’d like to be on the app. Once a question is submitted, it is reviewed by Aop’s team for relevance and clarity, and then published on the app if it meets their requirements. Clauson said the team reviewing questions is made up of both democrats and republicans, and has representation from every major racial group.
Clauson said it’s interesting to see how users of different backgrounds differ from each other on topics of politics, relationships and lifestyle, but that the app also reveals how similar they are.
“We’re able to show in a world that’s super divided how many things republicans and democrats do agree on, and how many things different racial groups agree on,” Clauson said.
According to their data, republicans and democrats are in agreement 73 percent of the time, across all the topics discussed on Aop.
Looking ahead, the team of nine plans to build additional tools that could be helpful to news reporters looking for demographic data. Right now, only those living in the U.S. can sign up for the app, but Clauson said there are plans to expand to Canada this year.
“We’re finding people that really love it,” Clauson said. “They’re fascinated by the data. Our first job is to continue to make it more interesting for people.”