Anonymous app Sidechat is taking on its rival, Yik Yak…and users aren’t happy

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It looks like the anonymous social media platform, Yik Yak, that started blowing up on college campuses last year, has found its way. While you may remember Yik Yak’s problems in previous years, where bullying and harassment eventually led to an embarrassing exit in the form of Square Find Tenant, the gossip app promises improved moderation starting in 2021 under new Nashville-based ownership.

But now, the Yak Yak app has been republished as SideChat — under the app store’s developer label Flower Avenue. Originally published under its own name, Yik Yak, Inc. (The original version under the original founders was Yik Yak LLC).

Additionally, SideChat users are complaining about the forced migration from one app to another in App Store reviews.

Captioned “Bring back Yikyak”, it pointed to the SideChat app, noting that they had received an update saying “the herd is on the move”. Several reviews also complained that Yak Yak was anonymous, but Sidechat was asking for students’ school emails to participate.

“Merging Yikyak with sidechat is the worst decision,” lamented another reviewer, adding that Yikyak was available to everyone, not just college students. Also, the reviewer said, everyone is worried about integration because their account information is now tied to their school.

Interestingly, not all Yik Yak users felt pressured to migrate. Other app store reviews say that Yik Yak is still working in some markets but not in others. In fact, we were able to log into Yik Yak locally when we tested the app today — and we’ve yet to get the push to go to SideChat.

SideChat may be targeting users near university and college campuses and pushing them to migrate because that’s a key demographic.

What’s interesting about this M&A event – which we’re hearing is more like a buy-lease than a big exit – is that the founders of both companies have tried to remain anonymous. Yik Yak earlier declined to respond to questions about the relaunch. And even when reported by the New York Times, Sidechat only responded to press releases from general emails. Dozens of the app’s student ambassadors also refused or ignored the paper’s questions.

However, an SEC filing for SideChat’s parent company, Flower Street, shows involvement from former Snap engineer Sebastian Gill and former Snap product designer Chamal Samaranayake. The company paid north of $10 million last summer after being written up by various university presses, such as the Harvard Crimson and The Tufts Daily. Recently, SideChat was covered by Annenberg Media in a paper sponsored by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. A few of the posts highlighted student frustrations with SideChat’s moderation potential and overall impact on campus.

When asked, SideChat’s founders declined to be interviewed for those articles.

Our phone calls, emails and other communications to Yik Yak, Sidechat and our founders were not returned.

But there are many social media complaints from disgruntled users.

The timing of the complaints and app store reviews point to a deal struck sometime last month. For what it’s worth, Yik Yak Inc. It updated its privacy policy in January, but didn’t make any changes to its ownership.

According to App Store intelligence firm data.ai, the Yik Yak app uses the publisher’s name from Yik Yak Inc. to Flower Avenue Inc. He changed it on February 28, 2023.

The company tells us that the new Yik Yak has seen about 3.5 million installs since its August 2021 relaunch. The highest ranking it has ever achieved came the day after it briefly became the No. 1 overall app on the US App Store. Today, it no longer ranks in the overall lists but is number 89 in the social network.

Image Credits: Sidechat screenshots

Sidechat, on the other hand, had just north of 180,000 lifetime installs, making it the lesser of the two apps. (But probably with more runway!) Its highest rank in November 2022 was No. 30 in the US social network category.

The combination makes sense as both Sidechat and Yik Yak share the same purpose of connecting people anonymously, although Sidechat is more focused on college student gossip.

But remaining anonymous when asked to trust others on your platform is an unusual choice for these companies — and one that seems backward. Users seem reluctant to even email the company because they don’t know who runs SideChat or what they’re worth.

Sarah Perez can be reached by email at sarahp@techcrunch.com and dial (415) 234-3994.



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