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Anonymous app Sidechat picks up rival Yik Yak…and users aren't happy

Sidechat, the anonymous posting platform that began blowing up last year on college campuses, appears to have acquired a rival anonymous social platform, Yik Yak. While you may recall Yik Yak’s troubles from earlier years, where bullying and harassment ultimately led to an ignominious exit in the form of an acqui-hire by Square, the gossip

anonymous-app-sidechat-picks-up-rival-yik-yak…and-users-aren't-happy

Sidechat, the anonymous posting platform that began blowing up last year on college campuses, appears to have acquired a rival anonymous social platform, Yik Yak. While you may recall Yik Yak’s troubles from earlier years, where bullying and harassment ultimately led to an ignominious exit in the form of an acqui-hire by Square, the gossip app relaunched under new Nashville-based ownership in 2021, promising improved moderation.

But now Yik Yak’s app has been republished under the same App Store developer account as Sidechat — Flower Ave. It had originally been published under its own name, Yik Yak, Inc. (The first version under the original founders was Yik Yak LLC).

In addition, Sidechat’s users are complaining in App Store reviews about the forced migration from one app to the other.

“Bring back Yikyak,” one review is titled, noting they received an update that warned them that their “herd is moving,” which pointed them to Sidechat’s app. Several reviews also complain that Yik Yak had been anonymous, but Sidechat was asking for students’ school emails in order to participate.

“Yikyak merging with sidechat is the worst decision,” another reviewer lamented, adding that Yik Yak had been available to everyone, not just college students. Plus, the reviewer said, everyone is worried about the merger because their account info is now being associated with their school.

Oddly, not all Yik Yak users have gotten the push to migrate. As other App Store reviews noted, Yik Yak is still operating in some markets but not others. In fact, we were able to log in to Yik Yak in our local community when testing the app today — and have not yet received a push to move to Sidechat.

It could be that Sidechat is selectively pushing users located on or near universities and college campuses to migrate, as that is its core demographic.

What’s interesting about this M&A event — which we’re hearing is more akin to an acqui-hire than some sort of big exit — is that both companies’ founders have tried to stay anonymous. Yik Yak earlier refused to respond to questions about its relaunch. And even when being profiled by The New York Times, Sidechat only responded to press inquiries from a generic email. Dozens of student ambassadors for the app had also declined to respond to or ignored the paper’s inquiries.

However, an SEC filing for Sidechat’s parent company, Flower Ave., points to involvement from ex-Snap engineer Sebastian Gil and ex-Snap product designer Chamal Samaranayake. Per the filing, the company raised north of $10 million last summer, shortly after getting written up by various university press, like The Harvard Crimson and The Tufts Daily. More recently, Sidechat was covered by Annenberg Media, a paper funded by USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Some of the papers highlighted students’ misgivings over Sidechat’s moderation capabilities and overall influence on campus.

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When asked, Sidechat’s founders declined to be interviewed for those articles as well.

Our phone calls, emails, and other outreach to Yik Yak, Sidechat, and its founders have not been returned.

But there are plenty of social media complaints about the merger from less-than-satisfied users.

WHY CANT I USE YIKYAK, I DONT WANT TO USE SIDECHAT

— Ur mom (@firemedaddy123) February 5, 2023

The timing of the complaints and App Store reviews point to a deal that went through sometime last month. For what it’s worth, Yik Yak Inc. updated its privacy policy in January, but it has not disclosed any change in ownership.

According to app store intelligence firm data.ai, Yik Yak’s app changed the name of its publisher from Yik Yak Inc. to Flower Avenue Inc. on February 28, 2023.

The firm tells us the new Yik Yak has seen approximately 3.5 million installs since its August 2021 relaunch. The highest ranking it ever received was the day after its relaunch when it briefly became the No. 1 Overall app on the U.S. App Store. Today, it no longer ranks in the Overall listings but is No. 89 in Social Networking.

Image Credits: Sidechat screenshots

Sidechat, meanwhile, had just slightly north of 180,000 lifetime installs, making it the smaller of the two apps. (But perhaps the one with more runway!). Its highest rank was No. 30 in the U.S. Social Networking category, which was achieved in November 2022.

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The merger makes sense given that both Sidechat and Yik Yak share a similar purpose of connecting people anonymously, though Sidechat has more squarely focused on college student gossip.

But staying anonymous when asking others to trust your platform is an odd choice for these companies — and one that seems to be backfiring. Because the users don’t know who is running Sidechat or what their values are, they’re hesitant to even provide the company with their email, it seems.

Sarah Perez is available via email sarahp@techcrunch.com and Signal ‪(415) 234-3994.‬

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