Major changes to a controversial app
The year is 2013 and college graduates Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington have both decided to release their project Yik Yak on the app store. Within 12 months, their app is the 9th most downloaded app on the iOS app store in the U.S.
The app gave college students around the country a chance to express their feelings about their experiences all while remaining anonymous. However, the app fell just as quickly as it rose, and by 2017 the app was discontinued. This was mostly due in part to harassment, bullying and racist language from users.
Yet, despite its history, Yik Yak was relaunched in August of this year, with new rules and a fresh new team. This time, operating out of Nashville, TN with a small staff of around 20 people. The new Yik Yak team acquired the rights to redevelop the app in February 2021 and has been working since then to get the app back onto the app store. The new team stresses that hate speech and bullying will not be tolerated on this version of Yik Yak, and these types of posts are, “against community guardrails.” But what exactly is different about the new Yik Yak, and will these new “guardrails” be able to deter the app from the same fate it faced in 2017?
For starters, the downvote system is incredibly efficient. Any post that receives more than five downvotes is automatically taken off the feed, making it harder for hate speech bullying to seep through to user feeds.
Of course, this could pose potential issues for people who aren’t posting anything harmful and have just posted something that was, say, unfunny. However, the efforts to keep the app clean and safe for users are certainly there. There is a zero-tolerance policy for posting anyone’s personal information, including phone numbers, names, and addresses. There are also mental health and “stay safe” resources within the app. Encouraging users to stay cautious of things like COVID-19, ride-sharing with strangers, and sexual consent.
CU students have been quick to flock back to the app, while the word has yet to become as widespread as it is in other locations, the feed is still fairly active on a weekly basis. With regular posters like the mysterious weather reporter being a common face every day. Posts typically range from students posting short funny inside jokes to complaining about various assignments, just as Yik Yak intended, it seems.
The app itself has only been back on the app store for about a month, however, and Yik Yak shared on Twitter that they’ve already reached one million users in such a short amount of time. The small team is working hard to keep up with such demands. If there was one thing the users would like to see, it would be that the app runs more smoothly. Several reviews on the app store all cite the same issue of the app running slow, or not starting up at all on multiple occasions. The only question now is, will Yik Yak be able to keep up with its herd? According to their team, “We are working on it! It is taking time.”