Buckle up, millennials. Remember Yik Yak, the anonymous app that, in effect, allowed gossip and shit-talking to run rampant during your high school or college years?
Well, it’s back.
Details on the relaunch remain relatively scarce. It just sort of showed up on Monday after being teased last week. The announcement video, for some reason I cannot begin to unpack, featured Brian Baumgartner, who played Kevin Malone on The Office.
Right now, Yik Yak is available only to iPhone users in the U.S. but the app promised it would launch for others soon.
In case you forgot: Yik Yak promises anonymity, creating a forum and message board for users within a five mile radius. The new version of the app appears pretty similar to how it used to look.
My radius, which extends five miles out from my apartment in Brooklyn, already had a number of New Yorkers posting. Naturally, folks were already chatting about hooking up, gossiping, and the scars of the first version of Yik Yak.
Credit: Screenshot: Yik Yak
The original version of Yik Yak was around for only a few years — 2013 through 2017 — but it made a major impact, for better or worse.The first iteration of Yik Yak was focused on college kids, the app itself founded by Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, two students at Furman University in South Carolina. It was somewhat of an overnight success in 2014, exploding in popularity. Every school had a Yik Yak community. Once valued at $400 million, the app shuttered in 2017, with some of its engineering talent being bought by the payments service Square. It’s unclear who is behind the app now and Mashable has asked the app for clarification.
The anonymity the app afforded however, predictably led to bullying, harassment, and threats. The fun bits of college gossip, and random posting, however, were often drowned out by kids frankly just being mean.
Mashable reached out to Yik Yak, asking about the new version of the app, but did not immediately receive a response.
The app’s website does have a lengthy section on community guardrails, which indicates it aims to tighten restrictions this go around. The guardrails outlaw sharing personal information, bullying/harassment, promoting self-harm, bigotry, threats, and a number of other types of posts.
“Yik Yak is where communities are free to be authentic, equal, and empowered to connect with people nearby,” the website reads. “So that all yakkers can enjoy the ride, we’ve set up some guardrails for your safety.”
There is something about having a place to post anonymously online. It can be interesting to hear what people say, unbound from their IRL identity. But enforcing community guidelines is difficult — effective content moderation is difficult as hell and requires sound judgment. It remains to be seen what Yik Yak will look like in 2021.
But the app is, in fact, back. For better or worse.