Whether keeping students up-to-date on the latest local happenings or simply serving as a source of entertainment during lecture, there has been plenty of chitchat about new smartphone application “Yik Yak” over the past few weeks at UC Davis.
“In general, our biggest communities are college kids,” said Cam Mullen, YikYak lead community developer. “[College students] can use it to connect with the people around them immediately, and that’s a core feature.”
The Yik Yak app requires no sign-up, and upon opening, shows a hundred of the most recent anonymous posts within a two-mile radius of the user’s location. The app has grown in popularity since its launch in November 2013, and is now active at over 1,000 college campuses across the country.
“Yik Yak has two parts. The first one is location based, which is different [from] any of these sites that want you to friend people,” Mullen said. “The other thing is how you keep your privacy — it’s anonymous and that lets you have discussions about things that you otherwise wouldn’t on other platforms. On Yik Yak, you’re not judged by who you are, you’re judged by content and content alone.”
Soon after its launch, Yik Yak personnel made the decision to block all middle and high schools from using the app, as they believe younger users are often not deemed “psychologically mature” enough. Mullen said this rule was created after the infamous app “Ask.fm,” experienced many unfortunate occurrences, including suicides.
On college campuses, the app serves not only as a source of amusement, but also is used to get the latest news on events and happenings around campus.
“At one school in the south there was an armed robbery and people were immediately posting on Yik Yak to find out what happened and where it was, so they could respond accordingly,” Mullen said. “Also, after a big football game or a big win, you’ll see the feed is flooded with comments and humor about it — it’s a really entertaining source.”
From September to December 2014, a Yik Yak team is on a 36-college campus tour to promote the app. On Oct. 7, the Yak made a stop at UC Davis for the day, taking pictures with students and handing out free items near the Memorial Union.
“I think probably the most exciting part of it is just how much we’re growing and how much people love it,” Mullen said. “We’re sending this 45-foot Yik Yak bus down the west coast – the Yak is on tour and it’s like he’s a celebrity when he comes to campus, he’s like a rock star.”
A growing number of students at Davis have begun to use the app. Many students have said they prefer the anonymous aspect of it, as it is not a feature of other apps like Twitter and Facebook.
“My roommate was on it before we’d go to bed, and she would read such funny stuff that I’d crack up, so I just downloaded the app,” said first-year environmental science major Morgan Hashimoto. “[The best part is] definitely the [anonymity], and you don’t follow anyone. It’s so funny sometimes because there are so many things that are relatable since it’s mostly UC Davis students.”
Second-year international relations and psychology double major Riley Sims heard about the app a only couple weeks ago, and is a big fan of the anonymous features.
“One thing I really like about it is because it’s anonymous, the amount of popularity it gets is based solely on what you put on there — it has nothing to do with how popular you are in real life,” Sims said. “All they know is what you said and they can take that for what it is and like it or not. So it’s a way for normal people to gain popularity based on what they’re saying.”
Although unclear thus far as to whether Yik Yak will gain as much popularity as Twitter or Facebook, it has definitely solidified its roots in college-age areas.
“It’s cool because the quiet kid at the back of the class might be the funniest kid in school. Yet they might be a little too shy to post on Facebook or speak up,” Mullen said. “On Yik Yak you connect with that community in a whole new way and you’re able to talk to them and see what they think. We’re stoked that it’s grown so fast, and that UC Davis has popped off so quickly especially in the past couple weeks.”