Tyler Droll

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Yik Yak is piloting a photo-sharing feature on select campuses after receiving a number of requests from users, according to Yik Yak CEO Tyler Droll.

“Yakkers have told us that they’d love the option of adding a picture to their yak, so this is something we’re currently testing out on a handful of campuses,” Droll said in a statement to Mashable last week. “There have been some great photo yaks so far, depicting everything from questions to sports victories to random funny moments. We’re excited to see what these communities share.”

Yik Yak is an anonymous social media application in which users post “Yaks,” which are 200-character messages viewable to users within a 10-mile radius. Yik Yak staff will moderate the new photo-sharing feature to keep inappropriate photos and photos that depict illegal activities from being posted, Droll said. Users will be able to take pictures directly from the app.

Madeline Smith, a Yik Yak campus representative and economics junior, said the feature could detract from the anonymous nature of the application but might also be used to promote positive causes such as philanthropic sales.

“I would hope they would introduce in a way that would be positive,” Smith said. “Kind of like the Snapchat campus story — they post things like people selling cupcakes for charity in the West Mall.”

Although Yik Yak is popular among college students, the app has received critical feedback because of threats and harassment posted on the application, according to an article from digital news website TechCrunch. Anonymity on the app has led to more harmful comments being posted, according to Katy Redd, Counseling and Mental Health Center interim program director.

“Users are probably more willing to say [and] to comment in a different voice than they would normally use if they were representing themselves,” Redd said. “I think that we behave differently when it’s our public persona versus [an attitude of] ‘no one’s ever going to be able to identify me.’”

Law enforcement can sometimes identify users who post inappropriate content on Yik Yak, Smith said.

“They have been able to track someone down based on something they posted on the app,” Smith said. “Anonymous can only go so far. There becomes a point where if you say something, you’ll be punished for it. Law enforcement has been involved with [certain content] that has been posted on the app.”

Founders of Yik Yak, Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll, spoke via Skype at the SAC Auditorium on Tuesday evening. Yik Yak is a social media app that allows user to post content anonymously.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Accompanied by the app’s mascot, the creators of Yik Yak spoke Tuesday at the SAC via Skype about their experiences working on the social media app.

Creators Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll, recent graduates of Furman University, created the app after watching their first attempt fail.

“After we graduated in May 2013, we released a different app that didn’t do too well, but we saw we had a passion for making apps,” Droll said.

At the event hosted by Delta Sigma Pi, Droll said Yik Yak was inspired by Twitter accounts that were set up anonymously, allowing people to tweet funny comments about campus life.

“The thought is there has to be more than five funny people on a campus of thousands,” Droll said. “Why not give everyone that platform to send a message out instantly to everyone around them?”

Buffington said he remembers when Yik Yak first made its way to UT. He said a student from UT must have heard about it over spring break, when students are mixing on beaches from Texas to Florida.

“I want to say that we kind of blew up there right during y’all’s exam time,” Buffington said.

Droll said the ease of access to an entire campus is one of the main factors that sets Yik Yak apart from other forms of social media.

“You don’t go through the trouble and effort of building up this huge base of followers if you just use location to connect everyone instantly,” Droll said. “You instantly have 1,000 followers right on a college campus.”

The app works to assure that the power of communication rests with the students on campuses, according to Buffington.

“With Yik Yak, it’s democratizing [campus social media] and giving the voice back to everyone on campus,” Buffington said. “Nothing matters on Yik Yak. All that matters is that you’re posting good content.”

Business sophomore Andrew Watts said he believes the app is increasing in popularity because of its anonymity.

“I think students are really interested in Yik Yak mainly because of the anonymity of the app,” Watts said. “You get rid of a lot of the social pressures and tension that you get posting on Twitter or Facebook.”

Aside from humor, Watts said some users post about serious issues.

“Some of the stuff on Yik Yak actually gets pretty personal, with people talking about what’s going on in their lives, how they feel depressed — and so it has actually become somewhat of a support community,” Watts said.