University of Kentucky students were quick to take advantage of the re-release of the beloved iOS social media platform Yik Yak.
The app, originally released in 2013 by CEO Tyler Droll, allows people within a five-mile radius of each other to create threads of short, public messages known as “Yaks.”
Much of the appeal behind the app is that unlike other thread-based apps, such as Twitter or Nearby, users remain completely anonymous.
“My favorite part is the anonymity. Apps like Twitter and Instagram are pretty superficial,” UK junior Bryanmarc Ray said. “With Yik Yak, I can still express an idea without having the stress of showing my face.”
The craze of seemingly consequence-free posting declined when the company received backlash over cyberbullying and hate speech associated with the app. After a significant loss of nearly 1.5 million downloads in two years, the app was removed from the iOS app store in April 2017, according to the New York Times.
Prior to its shutdown, the app was purchased by the online commerce corporation Square, which then purchased the rights to re-develop the app in February 2021 for $1 million.
The app announced its return in August 2021, and thousands of college students immediately flocked to the app store. UK students were no exception to the bandwagon.
“[The app] is full of risqué comments about students, professors and overall campus activities; the ability to post anonymous chats thrilled students,” sophomore Elyse Pilcher said.
Most posts, as Pilcher noted, include gossip and vague talk of happenings around campus and the Lexington area.
“What’s the move tonight?”
“It kinda stinks in Willy T right now.”
“Best bars in Lexington??”
Though many of the public posts still seem to be unregulated, the app’s updated website includes an extensive list of community guidelines for recognizing and reporting prohibited behavior and mental health resources such as national help hotlines not affiliated with the app.
Any “Yak” can be reported and sent to moderators for review of conduct. Posts that are deemed inappropriate are then removed from the local feed.
Many students have their own concerns about the fate of the app, though.
Sophomore Grace Hughes said she predicts the app will likely be shut down again due to “the extent of the harsh comments directed at specific students and groups.”
Though anonymity is what drives many students to be bold and courageous on the app, an undeniably large portion of “Yaks” could be considered vulgar, rude and unnecessary.
“Even though it is anonymous, the app can do a lot of harm,” Hughes said
Widespread controversy of Yik Yak has yet to create any corporate indication of another shutdown, so the app doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in the foreseeable future.