There’s a new viral app on iOS and it’s called Yo. It’s a messaging app, except that the only word you can actually message is Yo. Hence the name. Let me break this down even further: If you’re expecting anything else from this app, it’s not for you. All it does is Yo. You can send Yo’s to your friends via your email or your mobile number linked to the app. Yo. Yo. Yo. You get the drift.
And before you dismiss this as an idea that’s stupid and wonder why anyone would want to use the app, here are some numbers that might surprise you. It’s one of the top five free apps on the iTunes store, and according the latest numbers 50,000-700,000 users have downloaded the app.
Close to 4 million Yo’s have already been exchanged thanks to the app in one day alone, so suck on that Yo. It even got coverage on the Colbert report, with Stephen Colbert even singing a Yo-Yo song.
College students have already managed to hack it. Always a sign of popularity when young geeks are trying to hack into a new product. According to TechCrunch, the students showed how they could get any Yo user’s phone number, spoof Yos from any users, and “spam any user with as many Yos as we want.” Exactly the kind of spam that one looks for on their smartphone. A bunch of Yos from unknown contacts. So not only, is the app ridiculously dumb, it’s also not entirely safe either.
And if you think no one would fund something like this, you’re wrong again. The creator of the app Or Arbel has managed to get $1 million in funding, according to reports. CEO of Mobli Moshe Hogeg for whom Arbel–a previous employee at Mobli– had created the app is believed to be the lead investor in the app. It took Arbel all of 8 hours to create the app.
And yes Hogeg was told that app was a stupid idea but also addictive. A Business Insider report says that “In early May, a product evangelist and tech blogger from San Francisco, Robert Scoble, visited Hogeg. Hogeg showed him Yo and asked for his feedback. “This is the stupidest, most addictive app I’ve ever seen in my life,” Scoble told him. Hogeg agreed.” To know the full story of how Arbel managed to get the funding and how the app came into existence, read Business Insider’s report on the same here.
It was initially launched on April’s Fool Day, Apple rejected it because well let’s face it didn’t seem like it was offering much in terms of a service. Arbel also plans to commericalise the Yo platform and has built the an API for developers whereby they can send notifications. He write on the blog, “If you run a blog, a website, a shopify online store or any other kind of service, you’ll be able to boost your engagement with the Yo API,” and gives examples such as “a blog can Yo the readers whenever a new post is published” or “an online store can Yo its customers whenever a new product is offered.” The idea he says is to help context-based messaging.
As an idea Yo has found some support. TechCrunch’s Jordon Crooks has argued in this piece that the app Yo represents needs to be seen in terms of context.
He says that just like Hey from a friend and hey from a crush can mean totally different things, Yo from a friend or Yo from a crush could have totally different meanings and writes, “As with anything, a ‘Yo’ can just be a yo. But you’ll feel a very real difference between a ‘Yo’ you get in the morning from a friend and a “Yo” you get at 2 a.m. from a friend with benefits. Trust me.”
While the argument of context is well-taken, the problem with Yo, is that you can never be sure of the context until it is written in stone, say in case of the shopping website that will send Yos only when there’s a new product. Even in this case the Yo might not pertain to the product you actually want.
Sure a crush messaging you a Yo might sound awesome but you don’t know if it’s casual or serious or just a friendly Yo or even by accident. ‘Yo’ is not going to aid with context most of the time with personal contacts and might just leave you guessing, something you don’t really want with a messaging app. Sending a bunch of Yos might sound like a fun thing on a bored day at work, there’s also the point of how long you can stretch that. After a point someone on the other side will stop hitting on the Yo button.
It’s also likely to leave you feeling very old. It did for me, even though am in my twenties. I couldn’t for the life of me fathom, what and how this was going to figure in my daily use smartphone use? Sadly I could only see Yo getting a limited space, more so if you look at the competition out there.
It’s not like Confide, where you can send encrypted messages that disappear after you’ve read them. It’s not like Telegram which lets you set a timer on your secret chat so that the message disappears after that time limit. It’s not like Snapchat where you can share stories or pics, that disappear in seconds, but still allows you to take screenshots if you want to preserve them.
Nor is it like WhatsApp, where you might end up having long conversations or just staring at a crush or friend’s status message wondering when they’ll come online and reply to the message you sent two hours back.
In Tel Aviv, where 20,000 first downloaded the app, “people have been using the app for two months, early users have either deleted the app, or they are sending just a few Yo’s per day,” adds Business Insider, thus revealing that Yo does have a short existence.
With Yo, all you get is a notification with the sound Yo and the name of the contact who sent it to you. It might be great for context-based notifications as it evolves, but for now the app doesn’t feel like messaging at all. Especially when you look at what else technology is offering in terms of keeping in touch, Yo no matter how fun the idea seems, is a big letdown.