A curmudgeonly view of Yo

A curmudgeonly view of Yo

Perhaps I'm growing curmudgeonly as I get older, but I simply don't get the latest app flavor of the month. Known as Yo, all this little piffle does is let you say "Yo" to individuals among a set of followers, just to let them know you're thinking about them (or to be annoying).

Yet against all odds, Yo has been a big hit and now boasts more than a million downloads. As my colleague Sarah Perez pointed out on TechCrunch, it's become a party conversation starter. People hear about it, think it's kind of dumb and download it to see what the fuss is about.

My 18-year-old, who is my reality check on phenomena like this, predicted that people will get bored with it quickly, and how could they not? It doesn't actually do anything. Yet that hasn't stopped silly season from opening up around this app.

A million downloads does get you attention.

And the kind of attention that Yo has been getting tends to lend legitimacy. There was a story about Yo the other day in the Financial Times. The Wall Street Journal wrote about it on Tuesday. Through such stories we learn that the company is seriously trying to convince people that it has a business plan, with the founder stating, "Our aim is to develop the ecosystem around Yo." Oh, really? There's an ecosystem around Yo? Because my thinking is that there's not much room to expand this thing other than to make it an actual messaging app. But guess what: There are plenty of those around already.

If you want to get truly silly, how about the fact that The New Yorker reports that investors gave Yo's developers $1.2 million for this venture, and it's likely that others are lining up to give out even more.

And before you pass it off as harmless fun, consider that it's already been hacked by three Georgia Tech students. That didn't take long, did it? Yet as The Washington Post reported, Yo's developer actually wore the hack as a badge of honor. I guess the logic is that they must be somebody if hackers are paying attention.

The fact is the hackers could access personal information, and that's no longer fun and games. As Rob Pegoraro pointed out on Yahoo Tech, the hack allowed the intruders to easily extract users' phone numbers and impersonate them on the service.

Pegoraro went on to say that social services like Yo can be collecting information about you whether you realize it or not, and it's not that easy to get them to stop once you've signed up. In fact, when developer Or Arbel was asked how to opt out of his app, his response suggested that he had never given it much thought, telling Yahoo Tech's Alyssa Bereznak, "I think it will be really easy ... what we will do ... let me think about it. I need to think about it. About how we're going to do it."

I'm sure you're feeling really good about that plan right about now. I know I am.

Robert Scoble reportedly called Yo this year's pet rock, but the pet rock was harmless fun that sat on a shelf. This little trifle, the digital equivalent of a pet rock, is not harmless, because it's connected to a smartphone and all that entails.

Lest you think I'm just another technophobe, I write about technology every day. I've been looking at trends for a long time. Whether it was the Web in the '90s, blogging in the early 2000s, social media, smartphones or wearables, I've been on it. I'm no Luddite, but I don't see any legitimate purchase for this app beyond novelty and fodder for late-night talk-show jokes.

My guess is unless Yo expands its functionality greatly, and thereby loses its edge, it will be yesterday's news in a month, gone the way of Chatroulette and other flashes in the pan.

And good riddance too -- oh and while I'm at it, get off my lawn with that smartphone.

Ron Miller is a freelance technology journalist and blogger. He is an editor at FierceContentManagement and a contributing editor at EContent Magazine.

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