Yik Yak, the anonymous location-based messaging app that fills the gap between Whisper and Twitter, has already caused a bit of an uproar thanks to a particularly vile segment of its user base. Now, the company is testing a photo feature that is sure to make the app both more entertaining and more disturbing.
The feature, which is currently being tested on a handful of college campuses, is fairly straightforward: It lets people attach an image to their messages, but the image must be taken from within the app’s camera, not uploaded from an existing library.
Mashable reports that Yik Yak does not have specific plans for a wider release of the feature.
As it currently stands, Yik Yak is based on short text blurbs submitted by anonymous users and organized by location. This hyper-local social-networking approach has become a big hit on college campuses and at middle and high schools. Of course, that same excitement has fueled a lot of the controversy around the app.
Yik Yak’s posting system is premised on anonymity, which, as Whisper has demonstrated, can be both the key to growth and a major liability.
Some people see Yik Yak as an easy, anonymous way to promote hate, spark online harassment, and foster bullying. The app lets users block others and report messages as offensive, but this self-policing doesn’t stop Yik Yak-spawned harassment from spilling over into the real world.
Schools across the United States have already issued warnings about Yik Yak and its potential for disruption, begging parents to discourage their kids from using it. In the interest of quelling the outcry, Yik Yak actually blocked itself at many schools via GPS, though students can typically still use the app once they depart school grounds.
If harassment is Yik Yak’s biggest speedbump so far, the new photo feature could escalate things in unpleasant ways. It’s one thing to anonymously post a scathing rant about another person, but letting anonymous haters add a photo or other sensitive imagery is a recipe for bullying on an entirely new level.