Anyone who has ever “subtweeted” or wished they could send an anonymous tweet can now have their wishes granted, thanks to the application Yik Yak. By combining locality and anonymity, the app’s founders Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll have created an online bulletin board for people to post up to 200 characters about anything they want. These posts are completely anonymous and available to other users within a one-and-a-half mile radius. Users may also post replies to other Yaks, add a handle to posts and even choose to show approximately where the posts were made. Another feature of the app allows users to read posts from students at different schools. If you want to gaze into the lives of other students, you can tap on the “peek” section and this will bring you to a comprehensive list of all participating colleges.
An article from Business Insider reports that since the app debuted last year, the Yik Yak team has raised up to $10 million from DCM, Azure Capital Partners, Renren Lianhe Holdings and Tim Draper.
Yik Yak merges together the anonymous aspect of the image board 4chan, the expressive conciseness of Twitter and the up and downvoting feature of Reddit. The voting feature is a way for users to have control over which posts make it to the “Hot” section. Likewise, if a post receives enough downvotes it will be removed altogether.
Aside from voting, users also have the power to flag and report posts that they may find to be too inappropriate or offensive. The content of yaks ranges from talking about classes, to talking about the best spots to defecate on campus and to complaining about getting a ticket for trying to get into The Statesmen by flashing the bouncer.
Another great feature is your “yakarma” number. Essentially, it this score reflects your activity on Yik Yak. If you have ever wanted to be able to quantify how funny or interesting you are to random swaths of people, Yik Yak is your opportunity to do so.
Although originally designed for use on college campuses, Yik Yak has recently made waves through high schools where bullies have targeted specific individuals or administrators with rumors. This, however, seems to be a problem only for schools with very small populations where everyone knows who everyone else is.
Aside from bullying, some people have even gone so far as to post threats, which led to two evacuations in one week at a public high school in Massachusetts.
Despite these controversies, there is no reason to immediately write off Yik Yak. People originally thought Snapchat—now worth an estimated $10 billion—would only be used for sexting. Perhaps Yik Yak will foster a community of people unafraid to post personal and intimate details about themselves and allow for more progressive discussion on topics that may be uncomfortable for people to talk about in public.
One example of this I found from a quick scan was from a poster seeking advice on how to approach a guy he or she was interested in. One snarky, yet seemingly sincere person replied with, “If you move your mouth and tongue simultaneously, you can do this thing called make words.”
According to the number of “upyaks” this reply was given, it looked like a lot of people in the Geneseo community agreed with him or her. Due to it’s anonymity, Yik Yak provides an equal platform for any one voice to be heard and could lead to a more refreshing and raw look at campus life.
This app has a lot of potential to incite new and interesting conversation, but it is entirely contingent upon the users to provide the content. It is a welcome new option for procrastination.