Yik Yak was a social app for iOS and Android that allowed users to create and share posts anonymously with anyone who was within a 5-mile radius. Users within the range could also view, Upvote or Downvote content anonymously. The app was particularly trending in schools and campuses, often used for gossiping and sharing last-minute events or updates. Posts on the app were called ‘Yaks’, and users had a ‘Yakarma’- a score which measured their popularity based on the number of likes and dislikes that their posts received. Post that received five downvotes were deleted from the feed. Photos, after being moderated, could also be shared.
One of the main reasons that pushed the founders of Yik Yak to discontinue the application seems to be the frequent complaints about cyberbullying and harassment perpetrated through the app. Parents, feminist groups, and victims of harassments, in particular, requested schools and campuses to block the app.
Eventually, Yik Yak developers used geo-fences to block the use of the app in schools and high schools. Moreover, in an attempt to reduce the feeling of anonymity and increase accountability for the posts shared, the app tried to enforce a handle with which to identify its users. This new update only caused the number of users to decrease, and the feature was made optional.
Some argued that any platform that grants anonymity could potentially be at risk of becoming a hub for hate speech and harassment, and yet few of them actually see the prevalence of that type of behavior. The issue with Yik Yak seemed to be the fact that it was a social app based on proximity. This means that victims of any type of attack had the certainty that whoever wrote the threatening posts was physically close to them, increasing their anxiety and feeling of endangerment.
Another concern emerged when a team of researchers demonstrated that a Yik Yak user could be identified if it shared the same WiFi network of the potential attacker.
The attempted enforcement of handles, the removal of certain features, the wide coverage of news media of cyberbullying that took place through the app, security concerns, and the fact that the app stopped being relevant outside of campuses, all these factors slowly led to the decline in the use of the application and its inevitable shut down.