Sidechat, the anonymous post platform that started blowing up on college campuses last year, appears to have taken over a rival anonymous social platform, Yik Yak. While you may remember Yik Yak’s troubles from earlier years, where bullying and harassment eventually led to an ignominious exit in the form of a takeover by Square, the gossip app relaunched in 2021 under new ownership in Nashville, with the promise of improved moderation.
But now Yik Yak’s app has been republished under the same App Store developer account as Sidechat – Flower Ave. It was originally published under his own name, Yik Yak, Inc. (The first version under the original founders was Yik Yak LLC).
In addition, Sidechat users complain in App Store reviews about the forced migration from one app to another.
“Bring Yikiak back“has a review titled, noting that they received an update warning them that their”herd moves”, which pointed them to the Sidechat app. Several reviews also complain that Yik Yak was anonymous, but Sidechat asked for students’ school emails to participate.
“Merging Yikyak with sidechat is the worst decisionanother reviewer lamented, adding that Yik Yak was available to everyone, not just students. In addition, the reviewer said, everyone is concerned about the merger because their account information will now be linked to their school.
Oddly, not all Yik Yak users have been pushed to migrate. As other App Store reviews pointed out, Yik Yak is still active in some markets, but not others. We were even able to log into Yik Yak in our local community while testing the app today – and we haven’t received any push to move to Sidechat yet.
It may be that Sidechat is selectively pushing users on or near universities and college campuses to migrate, since that’s the most important demographic.
What’s interesting about this M&A event – which we’re hearing seems more like an acquisition than some kind of big exit – is that the founders of both companies have tried to remain anonymous. Yik Yak previously declined to respond to questions about the restart. And even when profiled by The New York Times, Sidechat only responded to press inquiries via a generic email. Dozens of student ambassadors for the app had also refused to respond to the newspaper’s questions or ignored them.
However, an SEC filing for Sidechat’s parent company, Flower Ave., points to involvement of ex-Snap engineer Sebastian Gil and ex-Snap product designer Chamal Samaranayake. According to the filing, the company raised more than $10 million last summer, shortly after it was written by several university press, such as The Harvard Crimson and The Tufts Daily. More recently, Sidechat was covered by Annenberg Media, a paper funded by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Some papers pointed to students’ doubts about Sidechat’s moderation capabilities and overall influence.
When asked, Sidechat’s founders declined to be interviewed for those articles as well.
Our phone calls, emails and other contact with Yik Yak, Sidechat and the founders went unanswered.
But there are plenty of complaints on social media about the merger from less than happy users.
According to data.ai, the app store’s intelligence agency, on February 28, 2023, Yik Yak’s app changed its publisher name from Yik Yak Inc. at Flower Avenue Inc.
The company tells us that the new Yik Yak has been installed about 3.5 million times since its relaunch in August 2021. But the highest ranking it ever got was the day after the relaunch when it briefly became the No. 1 overall app on the US App Store. Today it is no longer in the general lists, but ranks number 89 in social networks.
Sidechat, meanwhile, had just over 180,000 lifetime installs, making it the smaller of the two apps. (But maybe the one with more runway!). The highest ranking was No. 30 in the US social networking category, which was achieved in November 2022.
The merger makes sense considering that both Sidechat and Yik Yak share a similar goal of connecting people anonymously, though Sidechat focuses more on student gossip. But staying anonymous when asking others to trust your platform is an odd choice for these companies – and one that seems to backfire. Because the users don’t know who runs Sidechat or what their values are, they are even hesitant to give the company their email address.
Sarah Perez is available via email at email@example.com and Signal (415) 234-3994.