Yakking with the founders of Yik Yak

Matt Sowell

Love it or hate it, Yik Yak has left a definite mark on college campuses across the United States. The modern-day burn book has also caused a stir in the media but was the noble yak meant to be a bullying playground? We had a Q&A with the app’s COO Brooks Buffington and CEO Tyler Droll.

GA: What inspired the app, how did you guys come up with Yik Yak?

Brooks: “We had the idea of a parody Twitter account like the ones seen on a lot of college campuses, we realized that only a handful of people could control those and we figured there were more than just a few funny people on campus. We thought ‘what if there was a way for someone on campus to get a message to everyone else?’ That’s kind of how Yik Yak was born. We launched it at our old school, from there it transformed a lot and took off from there.”

GA: Are Yaks really anonymous?

Brooks: “Yup, they’re truly anonymous. We don’t get any information on the users, there’s no sign up process or anything. That goes back to the original idea of why we started the app. It doesn’t matter who you are on Yik Yak, all that matters is the quality of content that you’re posting. It doesn’t matter how popular you are on Yik Yak.”

GA: Did you guys expect it to cause the amount of controversy that it did?

Tyler: “No, we didn’t expect it at all. We made something that we wanted to be used for fun and sharing content on campus. We never had any intention of causing trouble at universities. With every step we make, we’re trying to make it a better user experience.”

Brooks: “I think it’s something that you see with all new forms of technology. Facebook went through it, Twitter went through it. Look at Snapchat; when people first talked about it they said it was a sexting app. Now people realize ‘hey it’s not a huge deal you know it’s used for sharing funny content’. I think that with Yik Yak and as it grows people are going to realize what it’s really used for.”

GA: How have you guys handled the racism, sexism, homophobia, ect?

Tyler: “First off we saw that in high schools it wasn’t being used well, so we quickly reacted by geo-casting all of the high schools and middle schools in America. Basically the way that works is once you enter a high school or middle school you can’t use the app. Across the board we have a lot of moderators looking at the content. We did the users to be community police, we can’t hire a team of thousands of moderators so we have to rely on the community. It boils down to how the user intends to use it, we blocked it in high school because they used it differently. “

GA: What’s in the future for the app?

Brooks: “By the end of the year, we’re going to be the number one app on every college campus. You’re going to see it become the college twitter”

Tyler: “I think our users will start to understand how to use the app better, particularly using the peek feature. With all these college football games users will start to see that you can peek in to schools across the nation on Saturdays. So if Georgia Southern is playing in Athens, you can peek into Athens to see what they’re saying.”