Jul 04 2014

In case you haven't heard of the Yo app yet, it's a "single-tap zero character communication tool" available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. You get a username and with a single tap you can send a "Yo" to another person's username. That triggers a push notification on the other person's phone and a "Yo!" sound effect. That's it.

Stupid, huh? Yet the app took the app stores by storm, eventually garnering one million users. It raised a $1.2M in funding. It got hacked. There was a Yo hackathon with some interesting ideas including YOTHEWORLD which donated the $2,500 they won to a charity.

When I first found out about the app I was intrigued, so I signed up and started Yo'ing with my wife. It was actually kind of fun.

But that only lasted so long; I had to try to get some of my friends on it. At the last Urban Geek Drinks I pitched it to a few people I was sitting with in a way that embarrassingly seemed like I was pitching it to investors. Like a lot of people on the internet they seemed to think it was more San Francisco craziness and laughable that they actually raised funding.

I managed to get one friend to sign up and later that night when I Yo'ed him his response was "I don't know what that means!" On Hangouts, of course, because he couldn't actually communicate that to me on Yo. And I think that is the magical thing about this service: there is no implied meaning to a Yo, it's all in the context of the relationship and situation between you and the other person.

There's a Yo API that makes it a bit more interesting. When a person Yo's you they essentially are following you. When you POST to the (only) Yo endpoint you are sending a Yo to all of the people that you have followed you. Essentially this makes this the easiest push notification ever. What if Starbucks Yo'ed you when your coffee was ready, or a restaurant Yo's you when your table was ready for brunch? How about when there's a new blog post? Or when your dry cleaning is ready to be picked up? And think about all of the Internet of Things possibilities.

You could certainly do the same over Twitter, email or countless other digital communication mediums. But those apps are already used for a different purpose than simple one-action notifications. There are so many email messages that are coming in to everyone's inbox that even the important ones can be neglected. And not everyone has Twitter or Facebook with the correct notification settings on their phone. Other messaging tools feel more intimate that you wouldn't want some business or service to have access.

Future implementations of Yo or something like it suggest more of a single-purpose app mindset that Facebook is already leaning towards by either buying the best-in-breed or attempting to clone them (think Instagram and Snapchat).

We'll see where Yo ends up. I haven't Yo'ed anyone in a while and I may be bored with it any day now. Or, it could lead to something completely different that my friends won't laugh at. But it's an interesting idea that I wish I would've thought of. Not everything has to make the world a better place.

By the way, I'm ddw on Yo.

Update to this post
By pull request from hamhands
It can't all be Yo's

Send a pull request for this post on GitHub.

Dave Walk is a software developer, basketball nerd and wannabe runner living in Philadelphia. He enjoys constantly learning and creating solutions with Go, JavaScript and Python. This is his website.