By Dean Fiotto, Contributing writer
It takes a unique platform for a social media outlet to gather users, and right now Yik Yak is collecting “Yakkers” at a growing rate.
Born in Nov. 2013, Yik Yak is an app that uses an anonymous posting board centered around a 1.5 mile radius and is now on over 1,000 college campuses in the United States.
Cam Mullen is the lead community developer for the Yik Yak team and credits much of its growth to the ability for centralized users to remain unidentified.
“It’s like anonymous Twitter by location,” Mullen said. “People will post ‘Yaks’ and the community around them curates all the content to get the best posts at the top and the worst posts on the bottom.”
Yik Yak uses a phone’s GPS capabilities to link everybody together. This produces a collection of posts that are made up of local news, inside jokes around school, upcoming events or even which hot sauce at Tacomano is the spiciest.
Mullen and the Yik Yak team foresee a promising future based on this unique characteristic.
“We are expanding on a new feature called Peek,” Mullen said. “It allows users to look into a feed from anywhere, from the Oscars to the Gaza Strip to Ferguson, Missouri. In that way it’s a news source, because it can get information from people on the ground. It’s different from a hashtag because those come from all over the world.”
But, with a compilation of posts coming from anonymous users, a Yik Yak feed can become a disorderly place. When the app caught on among a younger crowd, Yik Yak stepped in to intervene. Now, it is impossible to connect from high schools or middle schools.
“There was a lot of bullying; with anonymity comes great responsibility. There will always be people who try to abuse the app,” Mullen said.
To maintain a safe ground for posting, the Yik Yak team has taken several steps to tighten security. There are rules in place and systems in use that control, to an extent, what goes on the app. User-generated upvotes and downvotes determine what is popular and what goes unseen; Yaks that receive five downvotes are removed from the feed.
“We have filters running 24/7 looking for hot words associated with bullying, racism and other inappropriate comments,” Mullen said. “As it reaches a larger audience, we’ve noticed that the community itself is the best policing system. Inappropriate Yaks are taken down very quickly.”
With this app in the correct hands, it is not difficult to envision it rising to the same scale as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. But, for now, it seems that most users stick around for the laughs.
“It’s a lot less personal than Facebook and Twitter, but I do think it is very funny to scroll through,” said UNH senior Brayden Rudert who has been on the app since it was almost unknown. “The anonymity makes it both entertaining and detached.”
Others, like sophomore Hannah Rogers, are brand new to the scene.
“I just got it yesterday. I’ve been scrolling through it a lot,” Rogers said. “It will definitely be as big as the other social media apps. It’s just that fun.”
The general consensus among UNH students is very positive. It may not be a productive app around here just yet, but with the evolution of Peek and the continued growth of Yik Yak, anything could happen.
“I never post anything, but I check it a lot, mostly when I’m bored,” said senior Joe Rogers. “I think it is catching on like Twitter and Facebook did.”
Mullen and his fellow developers urge users to interact with their viral communities.
“The mission of Yik Yak is to give a voice to people that might not otherwise have one,” Mullen said.