Four months ago, I wrote a small piece on the problem with anonymous apps.
Recently, the Yik Yak team made their final move to strip pure anonymity from the product and step into the world of pseudonymity. Their mission now is to “make the world seem small again.” In other words, they want to foster real-world connections between people in a community. This sounds a lot like what I was arguing for in my post.
Now, Yik Yak is faced two challenges: convincing their current user base that the new world is better and attracting new (and lapsed) users with their new mission.
I played with the latest version of Yik Yak a little bit over the last few days, and to me, it feels like a “local Reddit.” The goal is to create sticky identities where people in a community can reveal as little or as much about themselves as they feel comfortable. Their implementation will need to evolve and sharpen. Right now, are some elements that make little sense — like short status updates.
I’ve always felt that there should be a product that solves the “local problem” in an elegant way. For example, if you hear loud sirens down the street, what’s the quickest way to find out what’s going? There are a few options I can think of: Open Twitter in case someone you follow nearby is tweeting or periscoping about it, Google it in case a local news outlet posted about it, or walk outside and see for yourself.
Nextdoor attempts to do this on a per-neighborhood basis, but falls short on the real-time aspect. Twitter partially solves this problem, and could do a better job, but it’s still too hard. I think going after this concept of “hyper locality” is a noble cause, but it’s an uphill battle to getting the critical mass needed for it to work. Reddit itself works pretty well for major cities, like San Francisco.
That said, I applaud the Yik Yak team for adapting to survive in this brutal market. I think the path they chose is the best one given the options, but it’s going to take time to settle into their new digs and get users comfortable with the change.