Barely a day goes by when Yik Yak isn't the subject of some sort of controversy - cyber bullying, threats of violence - you name it, this app has probably seen it. But the anonymous social network has been a roaring success in colleges up and down the country and the success shows no sign of waning.
Say what you want
Yik Yak's developers describe the app as a "local bulletin board for your area", but really it's more of a place for people to share thoughts, vent about problems, and write about whatever random thought pops into their head.
One of the most attractive yet dangerous features of Yik Yak is its anonymity. When you download the app, you don't have to provide any login information, you just get immediately thrown into a feed of "yaks". These yaks are hyperlocal, being limited to a 1.5 mile radius, and range from discussions on serious issues, to random musings to some more unpleasant content. With each yak (all of which are posted completely anonymously), you can reply, up vote or down vote, or report offensive content.
You have 200 characters to say what's on your mind or, alternatively, you can share pictures. There is also a feature that allows you to "peek" at what is happening at other colleges across the country, as well as an option to check out trending and featured yaks, and save your yaks and replies.
In terms of app experience, Yik Yak is super easy to use, simplicity being the key to achieving this. It's not an app with a lot of features and you will quickly be able to work out exactly how to use it.
A mix of serious, silly and crude
Yik Yak is very sensitive to the issue of offensive content, and has made it really easy to report abuse. However, if you are of a particularly sensitive nature, Yik Yak may not be your thing as anonymity does give some people carte blanche to post some pretty crude stuff. Although, being aimed at college-aged kids, this is not a massive surprise.
By and large, the yaks I saw were surprisingly serious, posing some very pertinent questions on important issues and opening up discussions that people may not be comfortable having on other social networks.
The idea, according to the developers, is to eventually make this into a hyperlocal news app but it would likely need some kind of moderators for this to work. This is especially true because the issue of cyber bullying is a serious one and not something that Yik Yak can easily address. There have even been arrests due to people misusing the app.
Relevant but not without problems
Yik Yak has huge relevance to today's college kids and it's easy to see why. It gives them the opportunity to share thoughts with their peers that live in the same area and are in similar situations. Its anonymity is both a blessing and a curse, as it opens up areas of conversations people might otherwise be reluctant to engage in, while simultaneously giving a forum for the worst kind of abuse.
Yik Yak is also good at starting important debates and giving a sense of community. Whether this kind of feel could translate to a wider audience is yet to be seen, and more content controls would almost certainly be necessary. Overall, it's an interesting concept and an app that is likely to be around for a while to come.