Perhaps the biggest application amongst college aged people since Snapchat is the anonymous posting application known as Yik Yak. The app is free and is exclusively available for iOS and Android users. It was launched in 2013 by Furman University graduates Tyler Droll and Brooks Burlington.
The intention of the app is to namelessly post opinions, crushes, and essentially anything and everything that comes to the user’s mind. The catch is that it operates solely on college campuses and can only be viewed by “yakkers” within a 10 mile radius. In essence, it’s Twitter, but without the consequence of knowing who posted what about whom. Yakkers have the ability to upvote or downvote any comment posted on the forum.
“I like the concept of it, I think it's cool for everyone to be able to talk about all the different aspects of Ramapo from everyone's perspectives, but it annoys me that people use it to post dumb things that no one wants to hear,” junior Cassidy Ebert said.
The poster also has the ability to have their “yak” seen by up to 500 yakkers in the nearby area. After this point, expressing oneself incognito comes at a price. To get a message to 1,000 people it’ll run the user 99 cents; for $1.99 the nearest 2,500 people will have access to the statement and for $5 the user’s reach will be a whopping 10,000 yakkers.
At startup, the app was only available to Southern universities but has found its way to college campuses across the country. The CEO of Yik Yak claims that the initial intention of the app was to share anything gripe-worthy occurring on any given campus. The hope for the app is to build a sense of community and an outlet for students.
Originally, Yik Yak was accessible to high schools but controversy over cyberbullying arose causing the company to enact a geo-ban. A September incident involving a high school student making terroristic threats on the app also led to the ban; however, a similar app, Maskerade, functions at the high school level.
Critics of the app state that without accountability vicious rumors can spread like wildfire in a landscape of often self-conscious young people. While the majority of the posts are harmless and humorous to most, the people being targeted have no way of knowing who is saying negative remarks about them.
“I believe Yik Yak is a dangerous app that invades the privacy of people. It looks like it's designed to be a unique app that focuses on connecting people in the immediate area. Unfortunately, its use of anonymous updates shows it can be used to create untruthful lies that damage a person’s social reputation,” said sophomore Matthew Lee.
In an effort to combat overtly hurtful posts, the creators of Yik Yak put a flagging system in place. If a post is marked as offensive by a minimum of two users it is taken off of the forum. The jury is still out on whether or not the application is ethical but it is unlikely to deter college students eager to have their voice heard, as anonymous as that voice may be.