It seems like a simple idea: create a platform which allows users to anonymously create posts which are linked to specific locations. Still, this idea from Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington received investments equal to $73 million. These investments result in a company valuation between $300 million and $400 million, all within one year after launch. The whole idea is captured in a very interesting, but controversial app: Yik Yak.
The app Yik Yak was founded in 2013 by Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, who directly created the app after they graduated from Furman University in South Carolina. The app had a Facebook like start, since it used the networks as they exist on university and college campuses to spread the app across many students with the help of word of mouth. Soon after the Furman University was added to the app, other neighboring colleges picked up the app. In this way the app spread across the United States and within one year after launch, over 1500 colleges were on the app.
So what is it all about? Yik Yak allows users to anonymously create posts which can only be read by other users which are within a specific area. So based on your location the app divides you into a specific group of users which are within a specific distance from each other. All the users within that specific group can post, read and like the messages, which are called yaks. These yaks can be up-voted or down-voted by other users, so that the yaks get ranked according to popularity. Users can also comment on yaks, to enable the possibility of a conversation between different users. As I explained above, the app is mostly used on colleges across the United States. Tyler Droll, one of the founders of Yik Yak, described his app as follows: “it’s like a bulletin board for your local area.” But although the intentions for this app are well-meant, it turns out that the app is not always used in the way it is supposed to be…
Downside of Yik Yak
One of the negative aspects of the Yik Yak app is that it brings along cyber-bullying. Of course, due to the fact that everyone who is using the app is completely anonymous, users can say anything they want. All kind of forms of cyber-bullying occur through the app like violation threats, sexual assault and racism. Several counter measures were taken towards these negative features of the app. The two founders allowed to geo-fence the app, so that the app cannot be used in specific areas. Due to this measure, the app cannot be used in and around many primary and secondary schools in the United States. If students open the app in the geo-fenced areas, a message pops up saying that the app cannot be used in this area. Besides this, the founders increased the minimal age to download the app to 17 years. Finally, a lot of school across the United States took action to ban the app in and around their campuses.
I think this app is a very interesting example, since it shows two sides of a story. On the one hand, the app raises a lot of money through investments and gets an enormous valuation within a small time period. But on the other hand it struggles a lot with the social aspects of the app. This app is a good example of how users can create and destroy the value of an app. Some users create value for the app by creating interesting messages, while other users destroy value of the app by using it for cyber-bullying.