Literally the wor§t app

It’s been a little over a month since I published my last story on Medium about #SlackDown (you might have read it), but I’ve once again been struck by a unique story compelling enough to write about.

Between Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announcing the 10k character news, endless political drama, some tech event that’s going down in Las Vegas, and ACTUAL RAIN IN CALIFORNIA, it’s been a pretty active past couple days on Twitter. In the shadows of these headline stories, I began to hear whispers and see tweets about a new service that I didn’t understand but became increasingly curious about.

Under the radar of the mainstream, something was happening. People were getting stolen and secret codes being selectively handed out to gain access to an exclusive currency exchange software that puts values on individuals, with the most sought after going to the highest bidder.


It seemed that some pretty respectable people in the tech industry have also been hearing whispers, and seeing similar tweets, and are confused af. That’s why I figured it’s a good time to share my experience with Stolen!, which describes itself as “literally the worst app”.

Like many other product discoveries, Stolen! came to my attention via Product Hunt. It had already been available to select groups, but was (and is) still in beta and required users to gain access with a unique, one-time use code. The demand for these codes FAR out-weighed the supply, thus creating a feverish pursuit by thousands for the elusive keys to the Stolen! kingdom.

Dozens of accounts were popping up that promised codes, many of which used #StolenCodes to attract the droves of Twitter users searching for ways in. Niv Dror, social 🔑 at Product Hunt, was getting shipments of codes which he would share out through the official Product Hunt snapchat account, where screenshots would be taken and lists of codes would be gone within seconds. Literally seconds.

Niv was nice enough (or evil enough) to send me a code, and I was in.

After a quick Twitter log-in, I was thrown into the crazy world of Stolen! and my night was instantly shot. My first time using the app, I must have spent 2 hours playing around with it without even knowing why. For those who don’t know, the app fundamentally breaks down to the following:

  • Every account that exists on Twitter, exists on Stolen!
  • Every Twitter user that gets into Stolen!, gets pretend currency: §
  • That currency is used to “steal” other accounts (on Stolen!, or not)
  • Every account on Stolen! has a value that increases the more it gets stolen
  • You maintain a “collection” of accounts that you “own”
  • NOBODY. EVER. WINS. (more on this later)

I think the first person I stole was Hunter Walk for about §26,000, and actually got a kick out of the fact that I briefly owned Mark Zuckerberg for the bargain price of §132,000. It has been fun going back and forth with people I respect, like M.G. Siegler stealing Techmeme from me, and battling Casey Newton (shout out #Despairiscope) for Dick Costolo on multiple occasions.

What’s also fascinating to me are the behaviors that users are developing and how they are finding ways to cut corners and take shortcuts as they learn the algorithms of the game. I set up an account for MeetBall (the great company that employs me) after playing around with the game for a couple hours and was able to quickly increase the value of MeetBall to almost 10x what my personal value was simply by “playing the game”.

As more and more people get onto the platform (every new account gets 1 code to share), the word of mouth that it creates is spreading the game like wildfire. Two nights ago I sat and watched the official Stolen! Twitter account tweet out the code “😭😭😭😭😭😭” (yea, that was the code) that was good for 300 people to get in. They were gone within 2 minutes.

Backend developer for Stolen!, Tony Million having some fun with things

I’ve noticed some users just like to collect people they like personally, while others have a strategy worked out where they combine all of the tricks of the game (like jumping on new users, making quick steals, and a bit of what I call “insider stealing”) to simply increase their value and net worth as much as possible so they can make claim to Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, or the most prized of them all: Donald Trump 😑 (shout out Trump Kitty)

The “Top” Stolen! accounts

There is also the Stolen! “shop”, where users can buy Gems to acquire Coins. It seems as though the majority of people use organic techniques, but clearly there are some that have thrown down some real money to accumulate Mark Zuckerberg type fortunes on the app.

I think the whole thing is kinda silly, but the fact that the CEO has experience at Zynga and that they had to shut down the service to upgrade their servers, shows me that there might be something to it.

Another key indicator for me after trolling through random accounts for a few hours is how heavily the high school and college kids are taking to Stolen!, because for what it’s worth that’s where a lot tech products start that end up catching on (👋 Snapchat).

For some legitimate product takeaways, these are a few I’ve noticed from Stolen!:

1- Let Twitter help you. Utilizing Twitter’s social graph, like Stolen! did, can give any new product a HUGE boost out of the gates (just ask Meerkat).

2- Gamifiy your product somehow. When you give users something to pursue and reward them when they get there, they will likely keep coming back for more.

3- Ownership matters. Whether it’s content (Instagram), followers (Twitter), or in this case a collection of Stolen! accounts, people like to feel ownership of things.

4- Make them feel special. Between the exclusive access, secret codes, and instant gratification of “wealth”, Stolen! allows for even the most normal of people to feel like somebody important.

5- Use notifications wisely. Push notifications are meant to attract users back into the experience, so be sure that every time you send them one it’s for that reason. (In Stolen!, users get a notification each time one of their assets are stolen, drawing them back in)

Stolen! is a world where a random high school freshman can be more valuable than the CEO of Facebook, with the help of some friends.

Stolen! is a random assortment of celebrities, techies, and millennials who are all seeking ownership in the pursuit of increasing their value within the digital walls of the game.

Stolen! has no winners, plays on basic human desires of inclusion and self-worth, and will eat up hours of your day.

It’s literally the worst app. But also fun.


Thanks for reading, if you got this far you must have liked it which makes me feel good. I’d love if you would recommend and share this so others can enjoy it too : )

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