The creators of the controversial smartphone app Yik Yak are back with a spinoff called Hive, without the anonymity that helped make its predecessor infamous.
Two years ago, Yik Yak was surging in popularity among college students. But the location-based app was also gaining widespread attention as a breeding ground for bullying.
It offered an unfiltered glimpse into campus life, perhaps one that some college administrators could have done without. Although it sometimes featured funny and positive posts, Yik Yak had a dark side, and some users took advantage of its anonymity to provoke or harass their peers.
After a wave of negative news coverage — sometimes involving accounts of student users’ being arrested — and a civil-rights group’s campaign to protect users from harassment, Yik Yak decided to require users to identify themselves. But fickle youths had moved on, and last December, reports surfaced that Yik Yak had laid off 60 percent of its staff in the wake of poor growth forecasts.
Down, but perhaps not out, the team that created Yik Yak has now returned with Hive. Released this month with little fanfare and few details, the app is described as an "exclusive social network for college campuses" that will "connect the student body in ways that have never before been possible."
Hive’s connection with Yik Yak has not been publicized, but the registered seller of the new app is Richard Guy, Yik Yak Inc.’s mobile-development manager. Photos of one of Yik Yak’s founders are in the new app’s screenshots, and the two apps share a mint-green color scheme. The app is also currently available only at Furman University, alma mater of Yik Yak’s founders. Would-be users can add their college email addresses to a waiting list.
Hive’s focus seems to be a practical one: helping students connect to other people in their classes. In appearance, it looks similar to the team-productivity app Slack, with channels for individual courses and private chat options. The app’s FAQ section suggests that it could be used to exchange notes, invite people to a study group, or look up other students in a campuswide directory.
Unlike Yik Yak, the location-based premise of the app appears to have fallen by the wayside, as has anonymity — users need an institutional email address to log in, and their names will be displayed.
Not the Same Allure?
Aneesh Borah, a junior at Furman, says he downloaded Hive after hearing about it from a student in one of his classes who does public relations for the app. Around 20 people were using the app in the first few days, Mr. Borah says, but he also saw a lot of people who were "definitely not Furman students" using it. It’s possible that they were developers or people with Furman ties who still had access to university email accounts.
On first impression, Mr. Borah said that he liked the app but couldn’t really see a use for it. People "aren’t talking about it as much as Yik Yak" on campus, he says, adding that it didn’t have the same allure that Yik Yak had when it was anonymous. Mr. Borah says he uninstalled Hive after experiencing problems logging in.
A Furman spokesman says that a few students were testing Hive, but that it was not an official arrangement. "It’s an informal arrangement due to the Yik Yak founders’ having graduated from Furman and still being in touch with their former professors," he says. Neither Hive nor any computer-science professors at Furman responded to requests for comment.
Reynol Junco, an associate professor of education and human-computer interaction at Iowa State University, sees Yik Yak and Hive as "two completely different tools made to do different things."
"It seems the company is just branching out to a different kind of app rather than reincarnating an old product," he says.
Mr. Junco says he has put his email address on the waiting list. "I’m curious to see if indeed it fills a niche that students need," he says. "Yik Yak certainly did".
While Ms. Mitrano welcomes the potential of the new app to encourage the free exchange of ideas on campus, she is wary as a result of students’ bad experiences with Yik Yak.
She is also concerned by Hive’s offer to provide a campuswide directory, identifying every student in a class. "I don’t think there is any college or university in the country that I am familiar with that would give them that information," she says.