After a tumultuous four year run filled with fast growth, cultural prominence, and dozens of instances of teens and college students (and college professors) getting bullied via the anonymous gossip app, Yik Yak, a platform you probably forgot existed, is shutting down for good. Co-founders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington announced the decision on the company’s blog this evening, writing, “we’ll begin winding down the Yik Yak app over the coming week as we start tinkering around with what’s ahead for our brand, our technology, and ourselves.”
Some former Yak employees will be joining the team at Square, the post also announced. There were no specific details about what is next for Droll or Buffington. For anybody who has followed the Yak saga over the years, the announcement isn’t really a big surprise. The app, by its design, was problematic from its inception. A platform where people can say whatever they’d like without disclosing their identity? What could possibly go wrong? “A gossip app brought my high school to a halt,” wrote one then-senior in 2014. Yik Yak started geofencing the app so it wouldn’t work on high-school campuses, but bullying still plagued colleges and universities. In 2015, a student at Western Washington University was charged with a hate crime for making alleged lynching threats on the app directed at a black student. At the University of Missouri, the app was used by a student making death threats, saying he was going to “shoot every black person I see.” Similar hate speech and threats plagued the app across the country. The company tried introducing handles to make the app safer and more enjoyable for users, but this backfired and translated to more targeted harassment. Last August, the company required all users to disclose their identities in order to use the app, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to keep its user base from ditching the app. RIP, Yik Yak. You were a real beast.
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