Yo: One reason it doesn't suck, completely

10:34 PM , , , 0 Comments

There has been a lot of talk about Yo recently. Initially it seems like the talk was all driven by the fact that this seemingly pointless app had raised $1million in angel funding (a good way to generate publicity and hype I guess if you happen to have a milli lying around). A lot of people speculated this as further proof of the tech bubble they had been long predicted. Others just talked about how crappy it was (albeit indirectly)

At a glance, neither the app nor the funding round seem particularly interesting - The app sounds distinctly like a novelty app that has only generated interest (and therefore users) on account of the funding, and seems destined to be a blip in the tech-history books much like Chat Roulette etc (although I can't really see it hitting he heights of Chat Roulette - at least people still make an occasional joke about Chat Roulette - I think give it three months and no one will be talking about Yo). The funding is less interesting when you hear the full story: according to Forbes, the app was created by a chap called Or Abel, after his former boss, Moshe Hogeg apparently asked him to make the app so he could buzz his PA without having to call, when Or Abel then switched up the idea a little bit Moshe lead the funding round (so a guy invested in what was basically his own idea, probably wasn't the world's hardest pitch).

Context based messaging

One reason cited for the app not being that lame, is apparently that it is actually trying to fill in a gap - providing context-based-messaging e.g. when you ping someone a "yo" they know the context of the message so you don't need to know anything else.

I don't agree. At least with the examples cited so far, it still seems pretty lame. The main example that has been used is the World Cup - you could subscribe to WORLDCUP by yo-ing them and then you will get a "yo" back everytime a goal is scored. Which honestly doesn't sound that great. I have been following the WC pretty avidly, but getting intermittent messages saying someone scored doesn't sound useful, and the main problem is that I would then have to launch another app to actually get the context (e.g. which team scored).  There are lots of other solutions to this that provide simple notifications including the context.

Some other examples:

Wanna say "good morning"? just Yo. 
Wanna say "Baby I'm thinking about you"? -- Yo. 
"I've finished my meeting, come by my office" -- Yo. 
"Are you up?" -- Yo.

These all make sense, but what next? How do you continue the conversation? how do you confirm/agree that all important context of the message? All these simple "yo"s all drive users to other apps - which means more effort/taps so why bother starting the conversation in Yo at all? why not just use WhatsApp/SMS/Facebook/GChat/etc from the start?

Ok, so clearly Context-Free messaging is a bad idea..

However, in my opinion, there is a glimmer of hope for the app, but the question for me is really just does it have enough runway to execute it before it just becomes another novelty app in the history books.

A few years back, just before Twitter went all dick-ish with their API and started locking out the entire developer community and third party eco-system there was a few good articles discussing an alternative business model for Twitter, and rather than becoming a media company (that it has become, rich content including pics/videos & trying to drive all eyeballs onto twitter.com or official apps - not via third party clients) it should become a global messaging system - it had the infrastructure made to be a massive pub-sub/notification system (I think at the time there was a better article that I read, but can't find the link now, so that one will have to do - if anyone thinks they know the one I mean then please add to the comments!).

This is a space that I think Yo could step up and fill. And its possible that they are thinking the same - having already announced their API, they already suggest some simple notification systems that could utilise it - In which case, it could become a really interesting platform.

So who knows, there is potential for it to become something pretty neat. Odds are on it will just end up a passing gimmick though.