February 1, 2015
Vent Up connects people from across the globe and aims to mitigate depression with the healing ability of anonymous chat. The free app, however, doesn’t quite excel on the implementation level: while the idea is great, the technical environment needs some work, alongside eliminating elements that undermine the base of the app, anonymity.
Signing up for Vent Up is super easy. It only takes a few seconds — pick a username, choose a gender (it doesn’t support a third gender), and you can start chatting. The app is very easy to use, as it only has four buttons you can choose from: 1) Search, which essentially means roulette because you cannot search for a certain user — it assigns you a random user instead; 2) Chats, where you can view your chats; 3) the Settings button; 4) and finally the Share button, which will earn you free chats (I’ll explain that in a few).
Creating a profile is easy and takes no effort: besides your username, you can share your real name and a photo at your will. However, since it undermines your anonymity, this is a feature that makes no sense. During my testing, I never saw a user with a photo.
The app is reserved only for users with problems: it has a dark (stereotypical) background, a typeface that invokes horror films, and relaxing background music by default, which, by the way, becomes annoying if you use the app for a long period of time.
What makes Vent Up unique is how it connects people, assuming they want to chat with each other. Hitting the Search button will bring up a user to whom you can send a message. That user will receive a push notification informing him or her that you want to have a chat. It’s his or her decision to either pick up the chat or skip it.
During my testing, I had the chance to chat with a handful of users, reminding me how hard it is to start a conversation with someone whom you don’t know. However, financial issues (or any other issue) could be a great motivator to bypass that barrier and instead get it out quickly and start the conversation that way. After that, it all depends on your partner, and since you don’t deal with a therapist, you never know what reaction you ignited on the other side.
During my testing, we couldn’t get past the polite chat so we could start sharing what really worried us. Every opened chat, however, remained on my list of chats, so I was able to continue the conversation wherever I left off, even after days.
Speaking of chats, Vent Up limits free chats to 13 users. Removing any users from the list doesn’t get you more chat partners, forcing you to upgrade to unlimited chat for $0.99. Also, you can remove ads for another $0.99.
Besides its unpolished content (aka the text written by developers), Vent Up has a few issues: the app descriptions say it is optimized for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Well, it isn’t. You cannot use the quick type functionality of iOS 8, and the keyboard is annoyingly big, since it lacks optimization.
Another issue: chat limitations. You can gain additional free chats, though, if you are willing to share the app — one free chat per share.
Vent Up provides a possible alternative social media platform where users can get out what’s worrying them, though in an environment that needs some upgrades to make it more comfortable to use. The app is available as a free download from the App Store [Download link].
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