The Inherent Problem with Anonymous Apps

Vanity Fair and TechCrunch recently reported that Yik Yak is in trouble, a company that raised over $70 million dollars and valued at around $400 million. At the time it last raised, Yik Yak had exploded across thousands of campuses in the US, propelling it to the top ranks in downloads on iOS and Android.

For an entertainment product to survive a hype cycle it has to provide unique utility, evolve with its customers, and foster communities.

Like Secret, Yik Yak captured the imagination of millions of people and provided a lot of entertainment value, but it doesn’t foster community the way social products that last do. I like to refer to this as the Fantasy Land Theory, because most anonymous apps are rooted in just that: fantasy. And like most entertainment, they’re designed to provide an escape from reality.

Identity matters

Without some form of identity, it’s impossible to form and strengthen lasting relationships with others. Users invest in their online personas by forming new relationships (becoming Facebook friends), providing feedback to others (liking a friend’s Instagram photo) and by sharing our daily lives (posting a story photo in Snapchat). Identity allows for continuity, anonymity doesn’t, and continuity is necessary to strengthen relationships.

Engineer by trade, artist at heart

Engineer by trade, artist at heart