Image credit: Sidechat & Yik Yak logos, image via TechCrunch
Sidechat, the anonymous posting platform that started blowing up last year on college campuses, appears to have acquired a rival anonymous social platform, Yik Yak. While you may remember Yik Yak’s troubles from years past, when bullying and harassment ultimately led to an ignominious exit in the form of an acquisition by Square, the gossip app relaunched under new Nashville-based ownership in 2021 and promised improved moderation.
But now Yik Yak’s app has been re-released under the same App Store developer account as Sidechat — Flower Ave. It had originally been released under its own name, Yik Yak, Inc. (The first version under the original founders was Yik Yak LLC).
In addition, Sidechat’s users complain in App Store reviews about the forced migration from one app to another.
“Bring back Yikyak,” says one review, noting that they received an update alerting them that their “crew is moving,” which pointed them to Sidechat’s app. Several reviews also complain that Yik Yak had been anonymous, but Sidechat asked for students’ school emails in order to participate.
“Yikyak merger with side chat is the worst decision,” lamented another reviewer, adding that Yik Yak had been available to everyone, not just college students. Plus, the reviewer says, everyone is worried about the merger because their account information will now be tied to their school.
Oddly enough, not all Yik Yak users have been pressured to migrate. As other App Store reviews noted, Yik Yak still operates in some markets but not others. In fact, we were able to log into Yik Yak in our community when we tested the app today — and have yet to receive a push to move to Sidechat.
It may be that Sidechat is selectively pushing users located on or near universities and college campuses to migrate, as that is its core demographic.
The interesting thing about this M&A event – which we hear is more akin to an acqui-hire than some kind of big exit – is that the founders of both companies have tried to remain anonymous. Yik Yak previously declined to answer questions about its relaunch. And even when Sidechat was profiled by The New York Times, Sidechat only responded to press inquiries from a generic email. Dozens of student ambassadors for the app had also declined to respond to or ignored the newspaper’s inquiries.
However, an SEC filing for Sidechat’s parent company, Flower Ave., points to the involvement of former Snap engineer Sebastian Gil and former Snap product designer Chamal Samaranayake. According to the filing, the company raised north of $10 million last summer, shortly after being written up by various university presses, such as The Harvard Crimson and The Tufts Daily. Recently, Sidechat was covered by Annenberg Media, a paper funded by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Some of the papers highlighted student concerns about Sidechat’s moderation capabilities and overall influence on campus.
When asked, Sidechat’s founders also declined to be interviewed for these articles.
Our phone calls, emails and other inquiries to Yik Yak, Sidechat and its founders have not been returned.
But there are plenty of complaints on social media about the merger from less than satisfied users.
According to app store intelligence firm data.ai, Yik Yak’s app changed the name of its publisher from Yik Yak Inc. to Flower Avenue Inc. on 28 February 2023.
The company tells us that the new Yik Yak has seen approximately 3.5 million installs since its relaunch in August 2021. The highest ranking it ever received was the day after its relaunch, when it briefly became the #1 overall app on the US App Store. Today, it no longer ranks in the overall lists, but is No. 89 in social networks.
Sidechat, meanwhile, had just north of 180,000 lifetime installs, making it the smaller of the two apps. (But maybe the one with more track!). Its highest rank was #30 in the US social network category, which was achieved in November 2022.
The merger makes sense given that both Sidechat and Yik Yak share a similar purpose of connecting people anonymously, although Sidechat has focused more on college student gossip.
But remaining anonymous when asking others to trust your platform is an odd choice for these companies — and one that appears to be backfiring. Because users don’t know who runs Sidechat or what their values are, they hesitate to even give the company their email, it seems.
Sarah Perez can be reached by email at email@example.com and Signal (415) 234-3994.