Yo. Is It Here To Stay?

The seemingly pointless app Yo, which was released, rather fittingly, on April 1st, is causing a buzz in the mobile world. Yo lets users send messages to friends that say “Yo”– and thats it. So is it for real?

The app was launched months ago, but numbers skyrocketed after it was recently revealed to the public that Yo had attracted $1 million in funding. The app now has accumulated over 1 million users, and at one point made its way into the top 10 of Apple Store Apps (but then fell to #86, and has since dropped even lower).

The question remains: is Yo a fad or is it here to stay?

Yo allows users to send "Yo" to friends.
Yo allows users to send “Yo” to friends.

The app originated when Moshe Hogeg, founder of Mobli, wanted to create an app that would allow him to reach his assistant with the touch of a single button. After only 8 hours of work, Or Arbel (who worked at Mobli for two years) delivered, and Yo was born. According to Arbel, the app extends beyond its original purpose: “If you think this is just an app that says ‘yo,’ you are getting it wrong. It’s a new way to get lightweight, non-intrusive notifications. We are here to cut through the noise. We like to call it context-based messaging.” (Mashable)

World Cup YoYo has even joined the World Cup frenzy. Any user who sends a Yo to “WORLDCUP”, will receive a Yo notification every time a goal is scored. One of Yo’s four part-time employees is responsible for watching every World Cup game, and sending out the notifications.

The long-term goal is to partner with brands, and turn Yo into a notification tool for people, brands, and advertisers. For example, when your Starbucks order is ready, Starbucks could send a Yo, or when a friend’s plane lands, Delta might send a Yo (Think Progress). Although Arbel says he will not add new features to the app, another option would be to allow brands to sponsor one word messages related to their brand (ex. Nike could use “run”).

Yo also held a Hackathon on Friday, June 27th in an attempt to brainstorm possible uses for the app.

One big bonus: its simplicity means that, unlike most other messaging apps, Yo does not access user’s personal information.

However, the app has had some security issues; three college students already successfully hacked Yo. The hack gave the students access to every Yo user’s phone number, the ability to pretend to be any user, send spam, and replace “Yo” with a different message. Arbel told TechCrunch: “Some of the stuff has been fixed and some we are still working on. We are taking this very seriously.” Arbel admitted to some vulnerabilities of the app, but then brought in a security team to deal with the issues; Yo has not experienced any problems since.

Though many have already written off the insanely simple app, it does have some potential. Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat all started simple – though not this simple, admittedly –  but they prove that an uncomplicated app can evolve into something bigger, and more useful. When Twitter first launched, 140 characters seemed incredibly short; now Yo takes messaging down to just two characters.

Yo has been host to plenty of media attention (both good and bad), but since its brief moment in the spotlight roughly two weeks ago, there has been little published about the app.

The app has acquired a solid initial investment and user base, but numbers have begun to fall rapidly; is there any possibility that Yo will mature, and grow into a usable marketing tool? Do you see your brand using Yo in the near future?