What happened to Yik Yak?

  • Yik Yak is a social media smartphone app launched in 2013 by Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington. The company was valued at $400 million in 2014 but was shut down less than three years later.
  • Yik Yak was immensely popular with school and college-age students, frequently associated with cyberbullying and threats of violence. Once functionality was disabled on school grounds, the app experienced a catastrophic user decline.
  • Belated attempts to make the app safer and user-friendly could not stop it from being shut down in May 2017. The new and improved app reappeared in August 2017, though it remains associated with cyberbullying.

Origin Story

Yik Yak is a social media smartphone app launched in 2013 by Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington.

The platform allows users to post anonymous messages, or yaks, to other users within a five-mile radius.

Reactions to these messages can then be upvoted or downvoted in a similar system to the one employed on Reddit.

Yik Yak enjoyed tremendous growth during 2013 and 2014, with the app particularly popular with school and college-age students.

After a successful round of funding in 2014, the company was valued at $400 million, and the app had been downloaded almost 2 million times.

Three short years later, however, Yik Yak announced it would be closing down the app due to poor user engagement.

What went wrong?


Given its popularity with the younger demographic, it is perhaps no surprise that Yik Yak was frequently associated with cyberbullying.

In 2014, a Massachusetts school was forced to evacuate twice after receiving bomb threats through the app.

Several other educational institutions were forced to close under similar circumstances, with one individual threatening to carry out a mass shooting and another threatening violence against minority groups.

The very design of the app also contributed to the problem.

Cyberbullying victims knew the person or people wishing to do them harm were nearby.

What’s more, cyberbullies could operate on Yik Yak with far more anonymity than they could on Facebook or Twitter and were subject to little or no moderation.

Unsustainable business model and mismanagement

In response to pressure from the media and various social groups, Yik Yak prevented its users from using the app at school. 

Though the measure reduced instances of bullying, the decision resulted in a significant decline in popularity among the app’s student-centric user base.

In other words, Yik Yak was most useful in scenarios commonly found in schools where:

  • Large amounts of people are concentrated in a single area.
  • Students from the same institution share and discuss things they have in common.
  • Anonymity is preferred when voicing an opinion in public.

By 2016, downloads had decreased by 76% compared to the previous year.

Shutdown and Square acquisition

Yik Yak decision-makers attempted to make the app more user-friendly by requiring users to have a username and profile photo and undergo phone verification.

However, their efforts were in vain, and the platform was shut down in May 2017.

Fintech giant Square then acquired several Yik Yak engineers and the rights to some of the company’s intellectual property for the paltry sum of $1 million.


On August 15, 2021, Yik Yak announced a comeback, with the app once again available for download.

The reincarnated app shared many similarities with the discontinued version while emphasizing user safety and stringent community guidelines.

Despite these initiatives, the app continues to be plagued by cyberbullying. 

Oklahoma Christian University is one example of an educational institution banning the new app after discovering it was once again being used to target others.

Read Other Failure Stories: Lehman BrothersAmerican ApparelToy “R” UsRadioShackForever 21GawkerEnronCompaqKodakAltavistaPalmFriendsterStumbleUponQuibiBlockbusterNapsterNetscapeChachaMapQuestSports AuthorityWeWorkConcordeXeroxCommodoreCircuit City.

Main Free Guides:

Related Business Stories

What Happened to WeWork

WeWork is a commercial real estate company providing shared workspaces for tech start-ups and other enterprise services. It was founded by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey in 2010. WeWork’s business model was built on complex arrangements between the company and its landlords. There were also several conflicts of interest between Neumann and WeWork, which provided the impetus for the failed IPO and significant devaluation that would follow.

What Happened to Netscape

Netscape – or Netscape Communications Corporation – was a computer services company best known for its web browser. The company was founded in 1994 by Marc Andreessen and James H. Clark as one of the internet’s first and most important start-ups. The Netscape Navigator web browser was released in 1995 and became the browser of choice for the users of the time. By November 1998, it had been acquired by AOL, which tried unsuccessfully to revive the popularity of the web browser. Ten years later, Netscape was shut down entirely.

What Happened to Musical.ly

Musically, or Musical.ly as it is officially known, was a Chinese social media platform headquartered in Shanghai. After passing 200 million users in May 2017, the platform was shut down by tech company ByteDance in November. After its acquisition, ByteDance suggested Musical.ly would continue to operate as a standalone platform. Company representatives noted that it would be able to leverage ByteDance’s AI technology and enormous reach in the Chinese market. Musically was ultimately absorbed into TikTok in June 2018, with the app no longer available in August of the same year. Existing users were offered technical support and several new features as a sweetener.

What Happened to Vine

Vine was an American video social networking platform with a focus on looping video clips of six seconds in length, founded by Dom Hofmann, Rus Yusupov, and Colin Kroll in 2012 to help people capture casual moments in their lives and share them with their friends. Vine went on to become a massively popular platform. Yet by 2016, Twitter discontinued the mobile app, allowing users to view or download content on the Vine website. It then announced a reconfigured app allowing creators to share content to a connected Twitter account only. This marked the end of Vine.

What Happened to CNN Plus

CNN Plus was a video streaming service and offshoot of CNN’s cable TV news network that was launched on March 29, 2022. The service was ultimately shut down just one month after it was launched. Trouble began for the platform when parent company WarnerMedia merged with Discovery. The latter was unimpressed with paltry viewer data and, with $55 billion in debt to clear, was not interested in funding CNN+ moving forward. Other contributing factors to CNN Plus’s demise include a lack of compelling content and streaming service market saturation.

What Happened to Clubhouse

Clubhouse is a social app that allows thousands of people to communicate with each other in audio chat rooms. At one point, the company was worth $4 billion and boasted users such as Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Clubhouse declined because it rode the wave of pandemic lockdowns and suffered when people resumed their normal routines. The decision to remove the invite-only feature also caused a rapid influx of new members and removed any exclusivity. Clubhouse management also failed to define a business model and was unaware of the components of a successful social media site.

What Happened to Facebook


What Happened to Sean Parker

Sean Parker is an American entrepreneur most associated with the music-sharing platform Napster. Parker founded Napster with childhood friend Shawn Fanning, and the service was launched in June 1999 while the pair were still teenagers. Napster’s ultimate demise in 2001 is well documented. Parker was forced to step down as Facebook president in 2005 after an arrest for drug possession in North Carolina. Still, he retained a significant shareholding and informal involvement with the company. He then worked with Peter Thiel at his venture capital firm for a time and then moved into philanthropic efforts.

About The Author

Scroll to Top