I finally understand Yo

Abhinav Chhikara
Oct 8, 2014 · 5 min read

Now that the rage has died down from Yo’s million dollar funding, it would be a good time to write a bit about what I feel about the app. To me and many others, Yo was that new ridiculous app that we just had to download for the novelty. Initially I convinced a bunch of people to download it and would send them yos from time to time. It was fun, but I had no idea what the founders’ plan to do with it was. Clearly they had an idea in mind, and it was beyond what the app did at the moment.

In comes the Yo Index. Services that would send you a notification based on event triggers, either set up by you (yo when my cat eats food), or general events (Marc Andreessen starts a tweet storm). I could see the use of that, and it made sense to me. Yo also added a new feature that allows a link to be attached to a yo, with a small visual indicator (*) keeping the experience intact.

Problem

How do I, as a service, instantly connect with a mobile user on his phone?

How do I, as a user, do something by just pressing a button?

Solution

  1. Get a Yo when things happen

Event trigger sends out a Yo. The trigger could be a new YouTube video, a new Instagram upload, a startup getting acquired, rain in San Francisco and so on. As long as you knew what account was yoing you, you could use that information well.

2. Send a Yo to do things

Sending a Yo triggers an event. The event could be Yo to send a particular text, switch your lights on and off and so on. Yo could be used as a remote control for things. Quite literally, I could have a screen on my android with Yo tile widgets that triggered actions.

Yo + IFTTT = Magic

This allows you to plug and play with yo notifications across multiple channels and triggers. By letting users of the service do a lot more with their Yos, they were opening up the field for experimentation by letting users define what they use it for.
So not only could you use the API and listed services on YoIndex, but you could also create your own recipes for cool things.

https://ifttt.com/recipes/hot?channel=yo

Competitors

No, I’m not talking about Hodor and the other clones here. I’m talking about Drop and Ping.

Drop is this cool app I noticed on Product Hunt the other day while Ping is a mysterious side project by the team behind Secret. Both are minimalist in design, and at first glance might not seem connected to Yo at all. They’re a more accessible version of two of Yo’s most valuable abilities: the notification and the Yo Index. They don’t require a signup, are very straightforward in getting you to subscribe to channels, and have more descriptive notifications.

Drop has a list of publication channels (Techcrunch, Wired, NYT etc) as well as other channels (Game Of Thrones, Suits) that you can subscribe to. They let you create your own multiple channels and send out individual Yos.. I mean drops through each.

http://justdrop.co/

Ping has a list of channels that you can be subscribed to, and they release new ones every once in a while. Their cryptic app store descriptions add to the mystery and their design is essentially two screens, one with notifications and the other with channels. They’ve got some really cool animations too, especially the rainbow gradient effect on text scroll.

http://iamping.com/


Why are notifications so valuable?

The notification drawer is prime real estate. I for one always give immediate attention to anything that shows up there (This might have to do with my obsessive habit of keeping the drawer clean.)

You might be reading an article on your browser, get a notification from your email client, reply, and get back to the article. Or you might respond to a text as it comes, and then continue what you were doing. The ‘notification interruption’ is even more exaggerated in apps like Facebook Messenger which have the permission to draw over anything you’re doing in the form of chat heads (drawing over other apps is Android only).

You’ll also read a lot of articles about how Yo is all about ‘zero character communication’, but that’s just one thing it does, just like you can ‘Like’ on Facebook and could ‘nudge’ on Yahoo Messenger (remember remember?). But no doubt, there are some use cases there like a missed call or notifying someone.

Notifications are also going to get a lot more relevant if smart watches become a thing. They aren’t great for doing everything your mobile phone can, but are pretty good for contextual stuff.

Google Now showing info when you need it, Apple Watch sending doodles to your friends, or yo-ing to control your lights from your wrist. Yo’s recent launch for Android Wear shows that the company’s vision is exactly that.

Yo is scaling fast and adding a lot of features while doing so. Hashtags, trending, profiles, location etc. My questions/concerns would be

  1. How well does simplicity scale — Will Yo’s simple UI be a disadvantage while adding newer features? It already feels a bit clunky to me with the numerous new interactions, features and the use of blocky Montserrat text for each and every thing.
  2. Will other competing apps successfully use Yo’s simplicity restrictions to their advantage? Ping and Drop may not be exactly Yo, but they’re getting to Yo’s core set of features in a refined way.

Oh well, only time will tell .


Do you even Yo bro? Tweet me @AbhinavChhikara, I’d love to hear what your thoughts are.

Or you know, just Yo. My id is ABH1.

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    Abhinav Chhikara

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    Building communities, exploring networks. Head of Design @unacademy

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