One year ago, Yik Yak was the most popular app on campus. Free to download, it acted as an anonymous newsfeed accessible only by people in the St Andrews area (predominantly students). At its height, Yaks were posted with such speed that one could refresh the feed every hour and see a new stream of content. Gossip, news blasts, questions, directions, and booty calls could be found at varying times of the day and night.
Part of Yik Yak’s allure lay in its anonymity. Students were free to express their annoyances and anticipations without fear of judgement, and many temporary friendships were formed in the comments section.
Three months ago, Yik Yak released an update that made handles a requirement. Although a user could chose their own handle, they could then only post using that name. The name was connected to a profile, which displayed all of a user’s past Yaks. While “anonymous” in the sense that it did not ask for our real names, Yik Yak had taken away one of its primary selling points: complete anonymity.
Users did not want to post a Yak relating to politics, only to have it referenced in the comments section of a later Yak. Every Yak was now tied to a personality, effectively removing the ability to converse without any bias.
The response was immediate. Yik Yak vanished from our radar, with many students deleting the app entirely. New yaks were posted barely twice a day, further negating the purpose of Yik Yak as a live news hub.
Yesterday Tyler and Brooks, the creators of Yik Yak, released a blog and a video announcing that handles had become optional again. “We messed up,” they stated in their blog, also released via Yik Yak posts. They explained that they had only seen the positive aspects of handles, as they could be used to “facilitate connections and form more tightly-knit herds.”
After the switch to mandatory handles, the Yik Yak support email was flooded with user complaints. “We heard very clearly that having the choice of whether or not to use a handle had given you the freedom to talk openly about a tough personal situation,” among other benefits.
In the day since the change, Yik Yak has already seen a steady return of users. The St Andrews feed, dormant this semester, is now alive with Yaks excited at the prospect of a return to form for the previously admired app.
Yik Yak will likely struggle to recapture its former fanbase; however, considering that no replacement app has yet appeared to replace it, soon we may all be Yakking once again.