Anonymous Messaging App YikYak Gains Popularity In Colleges, Raises $65M
If you think people don’t use messaging apps other than WhatsApp, Viber or Facebook, you are wrong. There are plenty of messaging apps out there and among those, YikYak — an app that allows users to post anonymously — has become hugely popular among American school and college students.
Sequoia Capital, the same venture capitalist firm who put money into WhatsApp and Whisper, has led a $62 million funding round into YikYak. This was YikYak’s third funding round in one year it has been live.
The app has been spreading rapidly in American college campuses. The reason for its popularity among school and college students is that it allows users to post in Twitter-style, and also uses information from GPS.
However, it doesn’t reveal the poster’s identity so the users can post anonymously. It has a radius of 1.5 mile so it will show you anonymous messages posted by someone who is in your 1.5 mile radius.
This anonymity brings the troll out of almost everyone. The structure used by YikYak has made it become controversial, and maybe this is why it has become popular. People criticize YikYak for providing a platform for hate speech. Emory University in Atlanta — YikYak’s hometown — even passed a resolution declaring YikYak as a “platform for hate speech or harassment.”
The reaction is not impulsive though. The app has actually been used negatively by school and college kids. Students of University of San Francisco said that they were not so much interested in the app, but they were compelled to join it if and when their name got mentioned. Here are some of the posts made in the app (original names are hidden):
“K is a slut.”
“The cheer team couldn’t get uglier.”
“No one asked H. to the prom because no one has a fork lift.”
“J.T.’s gonna get lynched at SMU.”
YikYak’s secret bulletin boards are not only used for banter. The platform has also been used for threatening violence as well. The threats rose to such extent that administrators of a school in Southern California closed the school for two days. Some have asked schools to ban the app.
The developers of app Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington have made attempts to avoid the misuse of their app. They put a 17-year age restriction for users. They also banned the use of the app in locations where schools are found, and blocked the service in those areas. But this is not enough for now.
Apps that allow anonymous posting often become part of controversies. A similar app Whisper also raised concerns over user privacy but they were resolved. However, the problem with YikYak is that if they ban users from posting anonymously or if they filter hate speech, the app wouldn’t be as popular as it is right now.