More than a shoutout, yo


Yo user: samwilliams


Modern technology is often found in conflict with itself, stuck at the crossroads between capability and usability on the journey toward, hopefully, profitability. The designers of all our shiny new toys aim to provide gadgets packed to the gills with features that hard-to-please millennials will love, but they also know that they need to be kept simple enough for their dorkball parents, who actually have money for things besides food and parking tickets.

This limitation hasn’t stopped producers of new technology from crafting amazing new items, but it makes one wonder about the potentially life-changing ideas and innovations that could be being held back by only a lack of immediate marketability.

With this in mind, we would all do well to respect the boldness of those developers who release their products to the world with confidence despite not having any guarantee of success and to give even greater respect to those who defy the typical model by making products both too simplistic for the younger crowd and completely incomprehensible to older adults.

This is the case with the Yo social app, first released in April 2014 for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. The app now has over 2 million users and, according to Business Insider, has been appraised at values as high as $10 million.

The app’s function is to tell your friends “Yo.” The main screen is nothing but a list of usernames with a purple background, and the user can tap a name to send a friend a push notification saying “yo,” including the name of the sender. If one’s feeling particularly verbose, the usernames can also be double-tapped to send a more expressive “yo yo.”

And that’s it.

There’s no message or attachment or anything that provides information; just a “yo” and the assumption that the receiver understands the meaning (or lack of meaning) behind it. Now, obviously I don’t have to explain the incredible potential behind such a novel idea; at least, I hope I don’t, because I frankly don’t quite get it.

The most logical application of the application that I’ve heard of is for drug dealers, giving them a way to carry out pre-arranged purchases without needing to bother with phone numbers or real names. However, as brilliant as that may be, it’s a bit hard to believe that all two million of the apps users are dealing or doing drugs. It’s probably only 1.7 million at the most. Which means that plenty of boring, sober folks are out there just yo’ing it up.

Perhaps this stupid new fad is harboring hidden potential that could change the way we live our lives. After all, the push notification is, in all seriousness, a powerful tool, giving instant contact to a person in a way that they’re all but guaranteed to notice.

The theoretical possibilities should have marketers drooling down their tie dimples at the thought. On the other hand, maybe it’s just a dumb way to annoy your friends and set up occasional transactions with Crusty Randy. Either way, it’s free, and pretty fun for at least the first few days, so check it out.