Yik Yak Adds Unique User Handles

Building community requires partial identity

March 9, 2016
Yik Yak adds identifiable handles for users

When Yik Yak's Director of Communications, Hilary McQuaide, emailed me this week to let me know about a new feature on the app, I was immediately curious. After all, it's only been a month since the ability to access Yik Yak via the non-mobile web was introduced.

My views on Yik Yak have changed dramatically since I first downloaded the app in the spring of 2014. Yik Yak can be a hot mess. It can also be used to build community. And, many campuses have tried to ban the app...even though that's a mistake. Throughout its brief history, Yik Yak has presented a new challenge for higher education.

This month, Yik Yak has released a substantial change to the way the app/site functions. In addition to reply icons, users now have the option of including a "handle" on their posts. Handles are unique and users have one chance to create their Yik Yak username.

According to McQuaide, "this was really about helping Yakkers create tighter-knit local communities and giving them the option to establish a unique voice in their community."

My initial thought about Yik Yak handles was that it probably had something to do with all of the controversy surrounding the app in terms of people getting arrested, anonymous hate speech, and the impact that negative posts can have on individuals/communities. McQuaide assured me that this new pseudo-identification didn't "change anything" and that Yik Yak "will work with law enforcement as we have in the past."

Time will tell whether or not Yik Yak's users will use their handles. Handles are set to "on" by default, but users do have the ability to pick and choose if and when they use their unique identifiers.

"We'd seen a definite interest here, both with reply icons (which increased replies twofold when we added them about a year ago) and with Yakkers developing recurring personalities, organically, within their herds – so with handles we wanted to focus on making that easier and helping users develop closer connections with their community," McQuaide said. "A side benefit is that with handles, users also have more control over their feeds – to recognize the recurring Yakkers whose content they love, or mute future yaks from those they don't."

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