Yik Yak

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Yik Yak
Yikyak homepage April 2022.png
Yik Yak's homepage as of April 2022
Headquarters
IndustryInternet
URLyikyak.com
RegistrationNone
Launched2013 (Relaunched in 2021)
Current statusOperating

Yik Yak is a pseudonymous social media smartphone application that initially launched in 2013 and relaunched in 2021. The app, which is available for iOS and Android, allows people to create and view discussion threads within a 5-mile (8.0 km) radius (termed "Yaks" by the application).[1] It is similar to other anonymous sharing apps such as Nearby, but differs from others such as Whisper in that it is intended for sharing primarily with those in proximity to the user.[2]

Despite strong levels of growth in 2013 and 2014, following several bouts of heavy criticism in the media over the dissemination of racism, antisemitism, sexism and the facilitation of cyber-bullying, the service saw stagnation in the growth of its user base. In 2016 alone, user downloads fell 76% compared to 2015.[3] Failing to maintain user engagement, Yik Yak announced on April 28, 2017, that the service would close in the coming week.[4] For $1 million, Block, Inc. (formally Square, Inc.) purchased Yik Yak's intellectual property and hired several of its former employees.[5][6] On August 15, 2021, Yik Yak announced via their official website that they were making a comeback, with the app available for download on iOS and now recently available on Android.[7]

History[edit]

The co-founders, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, are both graduates from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. The two started collaborating when they were placed into the same class where they learned how to code iPhone apps.[8] After graduating from Furman University, they decided to go full-time with their project. Droll dropped out of medical school just before it started and Buffington put his finance career on hold.[9] The two released the app in November 2013, and twelve months later, Yik Yak was ranked as the ninth most downloaded social media app in the United States.[10] Improvements on the Yik Yak app continued throughout 2015, including measures to ensure its sustainability.[8] The last major change was the announcement on January 20, 2016, that a web version of the app was available.[11] Attempts were made in 2015 to reduce its use for cyber-bullying, such as the new mandatory use of handles (later reverted to an optional feature) and removal of the "My Herd" feature (also was later reverted).[12]

On April 24, 2017, in a Bloomberg article, Block, Inc. (formerly Square, Inc.) announced its intent to acquire the rights to Yik Yak and five members of its team for reportedly less than $3 million, later revealed to be closer to $1 million after final sale.[13][6]

On April 28, 2017, Yik Yak announced it would be shutting down due to declining popularity,[14] and the app ceased to function as of May 5, 2017.[15]

In February 2021, an unnamed team purchased the rights to the YikYak brand from Block, Inc.[16]

On August 15, 2021, Yik Yak announced it would be making a comeback via their social media channels. The relaunched app has been available for download on iOS since August 2021. The Android version of the app has been released in July 2022.

In May 2022, a student revealed that, after analyzing app data, he was able to gain access to precise locations of Yik Yak users. The accuracy was within 10 to 15 feet and, in combination with user IDs, could potentially be used to reveal users' identities.[17]

On September 14, 2022, a student at Western Kentucky University was charged with "terroristic threatening" after posting a message on Yik Yak about a bomb on campus.[18]

On September 18, 2022, a student at the Oxford College of Emory University faced consequences after alluding to a bomb hidden in a residential hall via the Yik Yak app.[19]

On September 21, 2022, a student at the University of Utah was arrested after she threatened to detonate a nuclear reactor if the school's football team lost their game via the Yik Yak app.[20]

On October 21, 2022, two students at Lake Stevens High School were “referred for criminal prosecution” after making a bomb threat via the Yik Yak app. [21]

Funding[edit]

Yik Yak was originally funded by Atlanta Ventures with offices based in the Atlanta Tech Village. On April 22, 2014, the company announced that it had secured $1.5 million in funding from various companies such as Vaizra Investments, DCM, Kevin Colleran, and Azure Capital Partners. This funding came five months after Yik Yak was founded, and was intended both to enhance the app, and to market the app both in the United States and overseas.[2] On June 30, 2014, a little over two months after the initial $1.5 million, Yik Yak secured $10 million more from its previous investors, together with new investors Renren Lianhe Holdings and Tim Draper.[22] During the fall of 2014, with exponential user growth, Yik Yak secured over $60 million from Sequoia Capital and other investors. Less than one year after its launch, Yik Yak then had a valuation of over $350 million.[14] On May 5, 2017, the application servers and website went offline, and the application became defunct.[23] In 2021, Yik Yak announced on its website that it had received $6.25 million in seed funding from an unnamed investor.

Features[edit]

  • Yak: A shorthand term used to refer to a post on the Yik Yak app. Yaks provide the main function of the app, and can be up or downvoted, commented on, and shared. Yaks are limited to 200 characters and can be removed if a yak violates the community guardrails.[24]
  • Yakarma: Yakarma is a numerical score generated by the software that aims to measure the active success of a user. This number can increase or decrease based upon the responses to their yaks by other proximate users. Yakarma changes depending on the number of downvotes or upvotes, replies, and comments that are made on a user's post. Receiving downvotes negatively affects a user's Yakarma, while upvotes increase it. The exact effect on yakarma is determined by the status (yakarma) of the voting user.[25]
  • New: Features new yaks posted within 5 miles in chronological order.
  • Hot: Features the top yaks posted within 5 miles, top yaks reset daily at 8pm EST / 7pm Central.
  • Reply Icons: User anonymity is designed into Yik Yak conversations by assigning the Original Poster an OP icon, and repliers were randomly generated emojis, while in the original application was limited to 20 emojis, the relaunch provided over 100. While the icon is randomly assigned, the user can choose to randomize it as many times as they like. This icon follows the user in every conversation they participate in, and the user has the possibility to credit their icon to a yak they post if they choose. Each reply icon could be backed by any of the color circles, which added to the randomness of the anonymity for each user.
  • Nationwide Hot: This feature shows the highest voted yaks in descending order.
  • Upvote/Downvote: Up and down votes are essentially user ratings on a given yak. For a post to become popular it has to receive more upvotes than downvotes, at which time it displays a positive number next to it. If votes on a post reach a value of -5, it will be permanently deleted.[25]
  • Peeks: With the 1.2.9 update released in February 2022, Peeks were re-released with similar functionality to the original feature. In this iteration, two US colleges are selected on a daily basis to be the Daily Peeks. When a college is featured they are likely to see an increase in engagement on posts and thus a higher chance of being featured on "Nationwide Hot".
  • Cuss Buster: Similar to the word filter, the Cuss Buster filters out Yaks that may contain inappropriate language. The Cuss Buster is an option users can enable/disable in settings. While it does provide a filter to censor words, it cannot guarantee inappropriate content will be caught and removed from the feed.

Defunct features[edit]

  • Other Top Yaks: This simply showed the Google Images result page from searching the word "yak". Usually just pictures of yaks (the animal).[25]
  • Photos: This feature allowed users to include pictures in their yaks. The company indicated that uploaded photos were moderated and that no inappropriate content, illegal content, or faces were allowed in local feeds.[26] More specifically, photo collections displayed a grid of popular photographs submitted from anyone in the specified location.[27]
  • Hidden Features: Yik Yak also contained a word filter. When a post contained threatening or offensive language, the app would remind the user that their post could be offensive, and asked them if they still wished to post it. If the user bypassed the warning, the post would then be flagged and subject to removal by moderators. Posts that contained phone numbers could not be posted.

Campus Rep Program[edit]

The Campus Rep (short for Campus Representative) Program was announced by Yik Yak via Twitter on December 23, 2021.[28] Campus Representatives, also called Campus Herders, are students at a college or university who find and post Yaks from their respective herds to a social media account (Instagram, TikTok) they run and manage.[29]

Dissolution of original company[edit]

One of the biggest criticisms of social media sites and applications is their inherent potential to feed the growing amount of cyberbullying.[30] Due to the widespread bullying and harassment committed through Yik Yak, many schools and school districts took action to ban the app. These included several Chicago school districts,[31] Norwich University in Vermont,[32] Eanes Independent School District in Texas,[33] Lincoln High School district in Rhode Island,[34] New Richmond School District in Ohio,[35] Shawnigan Lake School in Canada and Pueblo County School District in Colorado.[36] Tatum High School in New Mexico banned cell phone use from the school due to Yik Yak,[37] and the Student Government Association at Emory University in Georgia attempted to ban the app across campus, but failed to do so after immense backlash from students.[38] Students at Colgate University staged a three-day protest in September 2014 substantially driven by racist messages on Yik Yak.[39]

On May 13, 2015, Santa Clara University President Michael Engh released a statement to all students after several racist remarks were posted on Yik Yak. He wrote, “Hate speech, not to be confused with free speech, has no place at Santa Clara University, because it violates the dignity and respect with which each member of our community is entitled to be treated. Hurtful comments directed at individuals or groups diminish us all and create a divisive atmosphere of distrust and suspicion.”[40][41]

On October 3, 2014, The Huffington Post published an editorial by Ryan Chapin Mach titled "Why Your College Campus Should Ban Yik Yak", which asserted that Yik Yak's anonymous messaging boards "are like bathroom stalls without toilets. They're useless, they're sources of unhelpful or harmful conversations, and they're a complete eyesore."[42]

To remedy the cases of bullying in middle and high schools around the country, Droll and Buffington amended the application to include geofences that work in the background. These unseen fences disable the application within their defined borders. At first these boundaries were installed manually by the developers, but it quickly became clear they would need outside assistance. They found this assistance in a Vermont-based company known as Maponics. Maponics “builds and defines geographic boundaries.” They happened to already have nearly 85% of the country's high schools mapped, making it easy to block access to Yik Yak in those areas.[43] The fences disabled the app on all middle and high school grounds throughout the country. If the app is opened within one of these areas the user is displayed a message along the lines of: “it looks like you’re trying to use Yik Yak on a middle school or high school grounds. Yik Yak is intended for people college-aged and above. The app is disabled in this area.”[44]

The frequency of bullying and harassment that happened on Yik Yak might have been exaggerated by media stories citing specific incidents.[45] Researchers have identified how Yik Yak is mostly used as a positive way to explore racial, ethnic, and sexual identities and to build a sense of community on campus.[45] Others have identified how Yik Yak gives marginalized students a voice on campus.[46]

In 2015, Yik Yak gained attention by being the subject of preventing a suicide attempt at the College of William and Mary.[47]

In December 2014, security researchers discovered and demonstrated a potential attack on the service, where a Yik Yak user could have their account compromised and be deanonymised (having their identity revealed) if an attacker was using the same WiFi network.[48][49]

In February 2015, Yik Yak was exposed for systematically downvoting and deleting posts that mention competitors. The automatic system downvoted and deleted any posts that contained words that associated with names of other apps used by university students, including "fade", "unseen", "erodr", and "sneek". The downvoting algorithm, which assigned downvotes on regular intervals until the posts were deleted, appeared to be designed to mislead users to thinking that their posts were unpopular amongst peers, rather than censored by Yik Yak itself.[50]

In December 2015, the SLOG and the Seattle Times reported that a Western Washington University student had been arrested and released on bail after calling for the lynching of the student body president of the university. The racist threats were posted on Yik Yak.[51][52]

During 2016, use of Yik Yak declined severely, by 76% over 2015.[14] This limited its former projected growth potential, and in December 2016, Yik Yak laid off 60 percent of its workers. Based on a report by The Verge, the community, marketing, design, and product teams were all deeply affected.[53] In addition to the aforementioned manipulation of content by corporate, the presence of extensive cyberbullying on the site was a primary cause of this decline in usage.[14] However, TechCrunch pointed out that "any forum offering users anonymity and a means of chatting" would have the potential to be "plagued by cyberbullies".[14]

In April 2017, the company announced its closure. The mobile payment operator Square Inc purchased what remained of the organization for $1m and stripped the company of its assets and integrated Yik Yak's engineers into their operations.[54]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b "Hyper-Local Social Messaging App Yik Yak Raises $1.5 Million in Funding" (Press release). Atlanta, GA: Yahoo Finance. 22 April 2014. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
  3. ^ "Yik Yak shuts down after Square paid $1 million for its engineers". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
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  5. ^ "SQUARE, INC. DEF 14A April 2017".
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  7. ^ Inc, Yik Yak. "Yik Yak | The Yak is Back". yikyak.com. Retrieved 2021-08-16. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
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  9. ^ "The Towerlight » Q&A with YikYak Co-creator Brooks Buffington". Archived from the original on 2014-10-19. Retrieved 2014-09-24.
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  11. ^ Crook, Jordan (January 20, 2016). "Yik Yak Launches On The Web". TechCrunch.
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  16. ^ "Yik Yak Android Status Update". Notion. 2022-02-28. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  17. ^ Sato, Mia (13 May 2022). "Anonymous bulletin board app Yik Yak is revealing its users' exact locations". The Verge. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  18. ^ Sergio, Arianna (September 15, 2022). "WKU student charged with terroristic threatening after fake bomb threat". whas11.com. Retrieved 15 September 2022.
  19. ^ "UEPD gives 'all clear' Sunday morning after Oxford College bomb threat". The Emory Wheel. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  20. ^ "University of Utah student threatened to set off explosion if football team lost game, police say". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  21. ^ Staff, Herald (2022-10-21). "Lake Stevens High School evacuated for YikYak bomb threat". HeraldNet.com. Retrieved 2022-10-22.
  22. ^ Shontell, Alyson (30 June 2014). "Yik Yak raises $10 million - Business Insider". Business Insider. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
  23. ^ Patty 360 (2019-11-22). "What Happened to Yik Yak and Why Did They Shut Down?". Patty360. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  24. ^ Inc, Yik Yak. "Community Guardrails | Yik Yak". yikyak.com. Retrieved 2022-04-02. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  25. ^ a b c Wojdylo, Jesse (August 27, 2014). "How to Get More Yakarma on Yik Yak". Wojdylo Social Media. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
  26. ^ "Introducing: Photos". The Yak (the Yik Yak blog). 15 July 2015. Archived from the original on 6 September 2015.
  27. ^ Tepper, Fitz (Jul 15, 2015). "Yik Yak Introduces Photos, But No Faces Allowed". TechCrunch.
  28. ^ "Want to be a Yik Yak Campus Rep?". Twitter. 2021-12-23. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  29. ^ "Campus Herder Application". Airtable. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  30. ^ Fye, Shaan (September 26, 2014). "Yik Yak: Why it Exists". The Atlas Business Journal. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
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  36. ^ Jackson, Curtis (October 23, 2014). "D70 officials spooked by online threat". The Pueblo Chieftain. Pueblo, Colorado. Archived from the original on October 24, 2014. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
  37. ^ Younger, Emily (October 3, 2014). "'Yik Yak' app prompts school to ban cell phones". CBS KRQE. Albuquerque, New Mexico. Archived from the original on October 5, 2014. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
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  39. ^ Avery Stone and Tyler Kingkade (September 24, 2014). "Racist Posts On Yik Yak Prompt Student Protest At Colgate University". Huffington Post. New York, New York. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  40. ^ Engh, Michael (13 May 2015). "Message to Students". Santa Clara University. Archived from the original on 16 December 2015.
  41. ^ Kinder, Stephen (4 May 2017). "Yik Yak Kicks the Can". Blue Valley West Spotlight Online (Blue Valley West High School). Archived from the original on 5 September 2017.
  42. ^ Mach, Ryan Chapin (October 3, 2014). "Why Your College Campus Should Ban Yik Yak". Huffington Post. New York, New York. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  43. ^ Graber, Diana (March 26, 2014). "Yik Yak App Makers Do the Right Thing". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
  44. ^ Perez, Sarah (Mar 13, 2014). "Amid Bullying & Threats Of Violence, Anonymous Social App Yik Yak Shuts Off Access To U.S. Middle & High School Students". TechCrunch.
  45. ^ a b Junco, Rey (March 17, 2015). "Yik Yak and Online Anonymity are Good for College Students". Wired. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
  46. ^ Hess, Amanda (October 28, 2015). "Don't ban Yik Yak". Slate. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
  47. ^ Shahani, Aarti (July 13, 2015). "On College Campuses, Suicide Intervention Via Anonymous App". National Public Radio (NPR). Retrieved 2016-03-03.
  48. ^ Moskowitz, Sanford (8 December 2014). "Yik Hak: Smashing the Yak". SilverSky Labs. Archived from the original on 8 December 2014.
  49. ^ Dredge, Stuart (9 December 2014). "Yik Yak hack is latest warning of the risks of 'anonymous' messaging apps". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 9 December 2014.
  50. ^ Constine, Josh (Feb 17, 2015). "Yik Yak Systematically Downvotes Mentions Of Competitors". TechCrunch. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  51. ^ Herz, Ansel (Dec 2, 2015). "The Morning News: Starbucks Launches Coffee Delivery, WWU Student Accused of Making Racist Threats Arrested". The Stranger.
  52. ^ Broom, Jack; Long, Katherine (December 1, 2015). "Bail set at $10,000 for WWU student accused of racist threats". The Seattle Times.
  53. ^ Newton, Casey (8 December 2016). "Yik Yak lays off 60 percent of employees as growth collapses". The Verge. The Verge. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  54. ^ Statt, Nick (2017-04-28). "Yik Yak, once valued at $400 million, shuts down and sells off engineers for $1 million". The Verge. Retrieved 2019-10-22.

Further reading[edit]

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