In 2015, Yik Yak was the app to have on any college or high school campus. Now, in the closing months of 2017, Yik Yik is no longer a downloadable app in the App Store, and the anonymous grasp Yik Yak once had on its young and curious users is gone.
Yik Yak was first started in 2013 by Tyler Droll and Stephen Buffington, up-and-coming entrepreneurs and long time friends. After it’s creation, Yik Yak’s popularity grew like wildfire. It was, at one point, on the top 10 most downloaded app list and was even estimated at one point at being worth somewhere around 400 million dollars, according to Business Insider.
The idea behind Yik Yak was being able to anonymously post a thought, and chat with all of the people in your area. It has been described as an anonymous Twitter. But instead of favorites and retweets, your post received votes from other people in your area. If people liked what you posted then they would ‘up-vote’ it, making it more likely to be seen by other people. But, if your post received 5 ‘down-votes’ then it would subsequently be deleted from the feed. This also applied to comments made in reply to posts, 5 down-votes and it’s gone.
Built on truly showcasing the idea of “Freedom of Speech,” the anonymity that the app provided seemed to appeal to many of its users. People flocked to Yik Yak for a while, many obsessively refreshing the feed multiple times a day just to see what people in their chosen mile radius were saying. But anonymity is not always as great as everyone seems to think, and in fact, may have helped lead to Yik Yak’s eventual collapse.
As of May 5th, 2017, Yik Yak is no longer available to be downloaded in the app store. Even if you had previously had Yik Yak downloaded on your phone, there is no way to re-download it once again. The company had supposedly laid off around sixty percent of their entire team by 2016 after struggling to combat issues of bullying, harassment, and threats all taking place anonymously on their app.
Yik Yak was becoming a problem app for some, especially in high schools where bullying can already be a problem without the use of an anonymous platform. Many high schools put a ban on Yik Yak, meaning the app was not able to be used if your phone was connected to the school wifi. However, this did not stop use of the app in the schools area if someone was using cellular data instead of the provided wifi.
Eventually, the possibility of harassment coupled with the continued rise and improvement of other daily-use apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter, lead to Yik Yak falling from popularity and no longer having the following to support it’s continuation. This resulted in the founders making the decision to move their staff to other companies and end Yik Yak’s 5 year reign.
Though Yik Yak is no longer available, it’s legacy still lives on. Other copy-cat apps, or apps built on similar premises, are still available in the app store. covert.ly and Shush are two of the recreations. Both are based off of anonymous discussions and preach a message of being able to say what you want when you want, much like the late Yik Yak.
Though these copies of the very memorable app are available, they are not as popular as Yik Yak once was. covert.ly barely has any users around the University of New Hampshire area and doesn’t have the daily grasp on it’s users that Yik Yak was able to develop.
Other anonymous apps seemed to have been inspired by Yik Yak, but some have run into the same problem of having to delete their platform from the app store. One app dating back to 2014-2015, called Fade, was supposedly the picture form of Yik Yak. But once again, anonymity became a problem for this app when users began to post nude photos to their location feed. Meaning, anyone using the app could have access to a nude photo of somebody that they did not know and that they did not want or ask for. This would also leave the user wondering if the person who posted the nude was the actual person in the picture, or if someone somewhere was unaware that their naked body was just made available to a very large anonymous picture-sharing chat room.
Though Yik Yak is no longer around, it did something bigger than just give college freshman something to scroll through during lecture. Yik Yak created a platform to connect thousands of people within an area in an instant, and took away the awkwardness of having to get to know the person who’s posting. It was pure conversation, sometimes not of the stimulating sort, without the strings attached.