A source of amusement and controversy alike in the past three academic years, the app Yik Yak has been neither since classes began this fall. In August, Yik Yak announced an overhaul, eliminating much of the anonymity that characterized the earlier versions of the app. 

Yik Yak was originally launched in the fall of 2013 by Tyler Droll, Douglas Warstler—who has since been ousted from the company and settled out of court—and Brooks Buffington, all of whom attended Furman University in South Carolina together. 

At Bowdoin, the app caused stir during the winter of this past year and elicited a response from President Clayton Rose in a campus-wide email on two separate occasions. 

This year, the app’s update has coincided with a dramatic decline in use on Bowdoin’s campus. Yik Yak users (or “Yakkers”) now have to create a personal handle to post on the app which allows users to chat privately with one another. The changes also included an overhaul of the interface design.

David Berlin ’19 believes that these changes have caused the considerable decline in popularity amongst Bowdoin students. 

“I think the formatting of the updated app is much more confusing,” he said. “[The username] kind of defeats the purpose of being anonymous.” 

While the app provided some harmless levity at points last year, it gained notoriety because of the disagreements it hosted, many of which devolved into ad hominem attacks. In the aftermath of the “gangster” party, Rose criticized students’ use of the app. 

“In situations like this, there is no place for the cesspool that is created by Yik Yak and other forms of anonymous postings,” he wrote in his email to campus. 

He addressed the campus again in February after the “tequila” party, writing: “Yik Yak is a place for misinformation and for ignorant and hurtful comments that stereotype, marginalize, and threaten. And it is also where students are unfairly criticized for acts they did not commit.” 

Due to the app’s contentious nature, some students are grateful that Yik Yak is no longer rife with posts. Emilie Montgomery ’18, who deleted the app after her first year, was frustrated by the ways in which it could become an outlet for ignorance. 

“Last year, it purely became a place where people could make sexist comments, racist comments or just offensive jokes without having to face any backlash, and I just don’t think that’s something that this campus is really about,” she said. “I think that it’s better to just not use it at all than to have people say stupid things on it.”

Emma Newbery ’19 agreed.

“I just think it really encourages cowardice on campus and people are able to say a lot of stuff because they don’t have to stand behind their opinions,” she said. “So I think it’s a stupid application and no one should use it.” 

Whether the app will make a comeback at Bowdoin is still unknown, but for now the campus appears to have lost an outlet for divisive discourse and squirrel jokes alike.