It’s not very often you hear of an app that would break the first rule of Fight Club.
Over the weekend, several reports surfaced about a new app called Rumblr, which was billed as Tinder but for fighters and used as a way to get people together for recreational street fighting through social media.
“Rumblr started as a portfolio project to help us launch our creative consulting agency, von Hughes,” according to the app’s website. “We’re a team of college dropouts with backgrounds in marketing, design and engineering. Rumblr came about organically as a funny idea amongst a group of friends, but quickly budded into an opportunity to showcase our branding skills. Within a day or two, VentureBeat picked it up as a news story, and within another day or two, it spread to over 200 news outlets globally. We saw it as an opportunity to show the world our ability to produce a brand and market a product, and that’s what we did. This is our attempt to turn this entire story into something positive.”
The beta version of the app was promised to launch on Monday at 5 p.m., but never did. The NY Daily News reported the Rumblr team delayed the launch because of legal issues but was “100 percent serious” about releasing the product.
"We have raised relatively substantial funding from private American investors and the app is fully developed," Rumblr told the Daily News on Monday.
It wasn't until the team posted a statement on the app's website explaining the product that the hoax was revealed.
But while many news organizations reported on the app's possible release, not everyone was convinced at first that the product was real, according to The Washington Post.
Rumblr had some questionable legality issues — its headquarters is based in New York, where public street fighting can get people arrested for “disorderly conduct,” The Post reported, making the app “criminally liable” for any damages it would create.
The app’s founders also “raise a few suspicions themselves,” according to The Post. One founder, Jack Kim, is a National Merit Scholar and junior at Stanford University, The Post reported. And Matt Henderson, the other founder, owns an online marketing firm called Juhasz & Associates — hardly the resumes of recreational street fighters, The Post reported.
“Our bet? Rumblr is a marketing stunt, a prank or (best case!) an unsubtle parody,” The Post concluded. “Part of me is scared it will turn out to be real, of course. Not for my sake, but for humanity’s.”
But Rumblr is far from the first Internet hoax of the year. As I wrote about in May, there was a Facebook trend called the Game of 72 that challenged teens to disappear from their homes and social media for 72 hours. Though this spread some concern among parents, it was later identified as a hoax and had only gained steam through word of mouth.
Similarly, I wrote about how high school students across the country participated in the “Charlie Challenge,” which called for teens to summon a Mexican spirit (no, we’re not kidding) by drawing a four-squared picture and putting a pencil in the middle. This was also later deemed as a marketing stunt for a horror film called “The Gallows.”
These aren’t the first Internet- and social media-inspired challenges in recent years. The cinnamon challenge dared teens to swallow a scoopful of cinnamon, which often left them sick and sometimes poisoned, according to The New York Times.
Teens also participated in the “To the water or a restaurant” challenge, where youngsters were encouraged to either pay for a meal or jump into a river, The Local reported. One teen died from doing this challenge.
These challenges often attract attention through word of mouth on the Internet, as Kelly Weill of The Daily Beast explained in her response to the Rumblr news.
“This is how a hoax spreads in the limited-responsibility age of ‘retweets are not endorsements,’” Weill wrote. “The creative team behind Rumblr assembled a convincing mock-up of an iPhone app modeled after Tinder. People like me half-jokingly tweeted the link, lending the idea credibility, and it snowballed onward, pulling in wider audiences and losing context. My tweet has been viewed upwards of 43,000 times, an abnormally large audience.”
Jordan Valinsky of Digiday wrote that hoaxes start when one website identifies the app or challenge and then other media websites rewrite the story “dozens and dozens” of times. This will oftentimes lead to journalists questioning the validity of the app, which later reveals the truth.
“The lesson here of course is to not believe everything (or anything) you read on the internet,” Andy Isaac of Uproxx wrote. “Also, if someone tells you that you can arrange fights on an app, they’re lying. Also, they should be in jail. That too.”
Had Rumblr proven to be a real app, it would be far from the first dangerous app for youngsters. Here’s a look at a few other apps that might worry parents.
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.