What is Yik Yak and How Does It Work?

Last updated: November 7, 2016 - 12:36pm EST

In today’s world, there are many social media apps that help you connect with friends, those around you, or sometimes, even complete strangers. With so many apps and websites to choose from, it’s difficult to tell which apps are actually useful to you, and which apps will leave you overwhelmed with a flow of other users’ meaningless thoughts.

Imagine an app that allows you to choose to be as forthcoming or as anonymous as you want, while also making connections with users that are in your area. By being connected only with those who are immediately around you, you could learn about the city you’re in from those who are actually there! There’s one social media app that aims to combine these features, and that app is Yik Yak.

Yik Yak is a social media app that connects its users to others in their immediate area, allowing them to post updates or questions related to their location. “Yakkers” can learn about events or popular places in their area, and make connections with new people who are using Yik Yak within a radius of about 5 miles.

How Yik Yak works

Yik Yak has a news feed that you can scroll through in order to see the recent updates posted by users in your area. You can also post your own updates, or pose questions to others about the area you are in. Try asking users about a restaurant you’ve always wanted to try, or where the best coffee shop is. You can post anything that comes to mind, but remember: only Yakkers in your area see your updates, so try to keep your content relevant to the area you are in.

Users up-vote and down-vote posts, so you can see what the most popular posts are and what users aren’t fans of. You can also use the chat function to directly message other users who catch your attention. You can also keep in contact with your “herd” (those in your regular area, or areas you often visit), so even if you leave an area, you can still chat with your Yik Yak friends and not miss any updates.

If you’re interested in Yik Yak, you can learn more about its specific functions in our article on how to use Yik Yak. It is currently available for download on Google devices with Android version 4.1 or later through the Play Store, and Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch) with iOS version 8.0 or later through the App Store.

History of Yik Yak

While attending Furman University in South Carolina, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington began their work together on Yik Yak in an iPhone coding class. In 2013, they launched their first version of Yik Yak.  Initially, the application was only popular on their own campus, but since then, it has become popular on over 2000 college and university campuses worldwide.  Within one year of its launch, Yik Yak was valued at almost 400 million dollars.  With Yik Yak's headquarters now in Atlanta, Georgia, Tyler and Brooks decided to start making changes to their original idea.

Yik Yak had become a bit of a gossip tool, and they wanted it to focus more on local connection rather than anonymous chatter. They began enforcing stricter rules regarding posts, such as suspending users for abusing the rules of the app, and automatically removing posts that were down-voted too often. This helped prevent some of the bullying, threats, and otherwise offensive posts that were constantly appearing on the app. Yik Yak now aims to be more positive, and help its users make connections with people in their local area.

How Yik Yak makes money

Yik Yak currently does not operate with a platform that makes money from its users or through advertising. Instead, Yik Yak secured many separate multi-million dollar investments.  As such, it can run and function without the annoyance of monetization practices that often discourage participation from users.

Why is Yik Yak so popular with college students?

Yik Yak began on a college campus, and since then has spread to over 2000 college and university campuses worldwide. It is particularly useful to students, as they can easily find out where people are going on any given night, or where the best places on campus to find things are. They can also form connections with other like-minded students.

It's easy to see why Yik Yak would appeal to students, as a college campus is its own community. Jokes or references to the school that are posted are generally understood by everyone. The #now function is also particularly useful, as it can help students know where their friends are, where everyone is studying right now, or which in-town bar is the place to be tonight.

Yik Yak safety concerns

As with any social media website or app, there are some safety concerns associated with using Yik Yak. One of the advantages of the app is its anonymity factor, but this can also be a potential danger to its users. Anyone with a valid mobile phone number can sign up for Yik Yak, and appear to other users in almost any way they choose.

Hiding behind this veil also allows users to post almost anything they want.  This carries the danger of potentially offensive posts, or of scams or other fraudulent activity. To learn more about how these may affect your experience while using Yik Yak, check out our article where we review Yik Yak, and reflect on these safety concerns.

6 safety tips for using Yik Yak:

  1. Never post personal or confidential information on Yik Yak.  This could include your address, phone number, credit card number, or social security number.

  2. Report any Yik Yak users who attempt to obtain information from you (such as the information stated above).

  3. Keep your eye out for scams or other fraudulent activity on Yik Yak.  Be wary of Yik Yak users who behave suspiciously, create offensive or threatening posts, or attempt to chat with you in any way that makes you uncomfortable.

  4. Be mindful of what you post on Yik Yak! Not only does the veil of anonymity sometimes make us forget how impactful our words can be, but posting positive messages helps avoid online fights or retaliation from other users.

  5. Keep in mind that, even if you delete your Yik Yak account, anything you post can remain on the application, due to the terms and conditions you agree to when signing up for Yik Yak. Never post anything on Yik Yak that you wouldn’t want others to see.

  6. Monitor or change your settings on Yik Yak to what you are comfortable with. For example, you can change what notifications you receive, or alter the ability of others to see you or find you on Yik Yak through the app. Check out our tutorial on how to use Yik Yak to learn how to change your settings.

Yik Yak’s competition

As social media expand across the globe, there are other websites and apps that have emerged with similar functionality to Yik Yak. Though there’s no one app that does exactly what Yik Yak does, Yik Yak has competitors that may have something you’re looking for.

For example, Whisper is a popular website and app that allows users to post their thoughts and feelings anonymously, though it is not affected by location restrictions. Ask.fm is a website with the same anonymity factor as Yik Yak, as users can pose questions to other users they follow completely anonymously. LikeWhere is an app that has users enter information about the things they like about the city in which they live, and then shows them similar places they would love in other cities that they visit. After School, an app specifically for teenagers, allowing students to post positive messages for people who attend the same school as them. Finally, AroundMe is an app that tells you exactly what’s around you and closest to you, depending on what you are looking for; it forgoes the social media aspect.

To learn more about Yik Yak’s competitors, check out our article on the best apps and websites like Yik Yak.


And that’s the low-down on Yik Yak! In the rest of our Yik Yak course, we will review Yik Yak, explain with step-by-step tutorials how to download and sign up for Yik Yak, and how to use Yik Yak, and break down the Yik Yak competition in our article on the best apps and websites like Yik Yak. Be sure to check out some or all of these articles to become a Yik Yak pro!


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