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Q&A: How Yik Yak wants to weed out abuse and become the next Twitter

Zach Miners | Oct. 14, 2014
Yik Yak CEO Tyler Droll and Chief Operating Officer Brooks Buffington lay out their vision.

IDG: Can you give the breakdown between male and female users?
Droll: I wish we could, but we actually have no idea. There's no sign-up process for the app. You open it up, and you're in. Because there's no sign-up process, we don't collect any user data. We don't know guy, girl, what grade you're in, where you live, stuff like that.

IDG: What do you think American teenagers and millennials want today in technology and/or mobile apps?
Buffington: A big thing is ephemerality. They don't want everything to be so long-lasting. That's why Snapchat has done so well. Yik Yak is ephemeral too, because it only shows the 100 most recent posts. Here in San Francisco it's a few hours old, but if you're on a very active college campus, it's like 30 minutes worth of posts. And, I don't think people like the idea of being anchored to a profile. It's more in-the-moment to be part of something where you don't have to constantly be curating your profile.

IDG: What interests both of you about the larger social media space right now?
Droll: It seems like there's a changing of the guards. There's these new apps coming that people are flocking to away from Facebook. And it's cool to see that happen. We're just doing our best to be a part of that.

IDG: There's an argument to be made now that the rising popularity of apps built around anonymity, like Secret and Whisper, is causing established sites like Facebook to think more about anonymity. What do you think of that?
Buffington: It's good for the space. If Facebook wants a slice of the pie, it's probably a pretty valuable pie.

IDG: Why do you think we're seeing more of these types of apps pop up?
Droll: There's cycles. When the Internet first came around, there was a lot of anonymous stuff. And then came the real identity on Facebook, and now maybe we're going back into anonymity. On Yik Yak, people can post a joke, and if it's not funny, alright, it's not funny. But the whole world doesn't think I'm not funny. It's the content that's not funny, not me. It crowdsources humor. We made Yik Yak because we saw these five parody Twitter accounts on our campus, and the thought was, there's more than five funny kids on our campus of thousands. Why not crowdsource that humor -- let everyone have a chance to throw in a little witty comment about what's going on around us?

IDG: What do you think of Facebook now?
Buffington: Their popularity is waning with the high school and college crowd. If Facebook is trying to do something anonymous, I think people are going to take a step back and say, 'How anonymous is this really,' with all the privacy and user data issues.


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