George Bowden

Just over a year since it became synonymous on college campuses across the US,
Yik Yak, the secretive location-based messaging app that promises to provide a safehaven
for gossip seekers and truth tellers, has arrived at Brunel.

In a sponsored Facebook post, the British outpost of the app’s American developers
landed a Trojan horse on the news feeds of Brunel students. “Get ready, Brunel University.
The Yak is coming,” it read simply, prompting the kind of intrigue that led it to become one
of last year’s most popular.

Yik Yak – which uses an image of an eponymous Yak as its logo – launched in the
US in November 2013, and within four months had gained 100,000 users. It went on to raise
$63m from Silicon Valley investors, and continues to grow its membership at home, and now
abroad.

Why is Yik Yak so different?

For its founders, it’s the ability to create local connections between people that don’t
know each other – and use that connection to disseminate information en masse.
“The only way to create a localised social forum without prior relationships or
friendships for the purpose of delivering relevant, timely content to hyper-local areas of
people,” in Valley speak.

Young people. Gossip. Anonymity. It was clear Yik Yak was going to achieve infamy
from the start – and it didn’t take long. Warnings of planned shootouts, extreme cyber
bullying, and “encouraging hate” – users operate without fear of being identified.

Yik Yak claim to have a degree of control as to where the app can operate – hence the
staged launch at Brunel. And it couldn’t have timed it more wisely.

In little over a month, the student union elections will begin, and with it new
campaign rules – ostensibly that there aren’t any – not least where “negative” comments are
concerned.

How the union will cope with a high-profile, anonymous messaging app launching at the
same time as campaigning isn’t clear.

But for now, Yik Yak is an app to download, and watch.