Do you yak?

(Graphic / Tribune News Service)
Yaks are short, anonymous and unpredictable messages sent across a new social media platform. (Graphic / Tribune News Service)

Yik Yak may sound as if you’re going to be sick, but its popularity as an app has grown in spite of its name.

The application was created by Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, who are both graduates of Furman University in South Carolina. The duo launched the app in November of 2013. Six months later it was ranked as the 9th most downloaded app in the United States.

Yik Yak allows people to write short posts, referred to as “yaks” and post them anonymously to a feed based on a user’s GPS location.

The app limits what posts a user can see based on their location. The location is always set to only show yaks that are within a 10-mile radius of the person using the application.

When a yak is posted to the local feed, each user has the ability to vote it up or down. The more upvotes the yak receives, the higher it is ranked.

Users of the app can build up a score called yakarma. A user can gain yakarma points by posting content that gets upvotes or by voting on other user’s yaks.

On the flipside, a user’s yakarma can be lowered if a yak they post receives downvotes. Users only get one chance to vote up or down on any given post; once they vote they cannot change their vote.

Yakarma scores are a rating of how popular a user is on Yik Yak. The points generated towards a user’s yakarma aren’t used for anything on the app except an indicator of popularity. The higher a user’s yakarma, the more popular their posts are.

Shiney Hanny, a freshman at Weber State University said she started using the app last September. “It is an app that I use when I’m bored. It is more fun to read what people have posted than to actually post something myself,” said Hanny.

Yik Yak can contain posts about anything, which means that not everything posted on the application is appropriate. The fact that all posts are anonymous leaves even more room for people to post freely without fear of being judged.

Britney Crowton, an early childhood education major at WSU, had never heard of the application before. “I try to stay away from social media, especially the kind that can be used inappropriately. It isn’t something I would download and use,” said Crowton.

Yik Yak has stirred up some controversy along the way. Cyber-bullying became a big issue as the application increased in popularity. Yik Yak has implemented what it calls fenced off areas to help decrease the likelihood of the app being used as a tool for cyber-bullying. High schools and middle schools are “fenced off” using GPS technology so that the app no longer works when a user is in these areas.

Breanna Gill, a freshman at WSU, has used the application before. “It is an app that I like to use when I’m bored or in need of a good laugh,” she said.

The app doesn’t filter any swear words or inappropriate posts. They only thing the app can detect and filter out is threatening language. If Yik Yak detects any language that might be considered threatening an automated message will pop up letting the user know that this type of language has been found. It is up to the user to decide whether to post or delete the yak.

If a user decides to go ahead and post the yak despite the warning, they face the possibility of being suspended from the app. Other users can report the offensive yak. Those who are reported a few times can receive suspensions ranging from 30 minutes to three days. Those users who are reported multiple times on different yaks can face permanent suspension from the app.

Hanny also mentioned that the app can be fun to use with friends. “It is fun to tell my friends that I’ve posted something funny and see if they can guess which post is mine,” she said.

Yik Yak is available for free on both iOS and Android. For more information about the app, how it works or where to get it, visit the Yik Yak website.