Yo App Begs The Question: What Are We Missing?

The Yo app has been quite the contentious little bugger, inspiring spirited conversation and debate on the interwebs — all over what in the world we are supposed to think about the thing. For those of us who don’t quite grasp the whole picture or share the spirit of Yo… just what are we missing here? We recently discussed the app’s stupidly simple concept, which managed to raise $1 million in venture capitalist money for development. We also mentioned there that there may be something quite beautiful in its simplicity, especially in a world where we try to cram features where they don’t belong. On top of that, simplicity can have an addictive quality.

I’ll bring up another app that rose to power in recent months, much to the chagrin of many people: Flappy Bird. This recent piece of work took the world by storm so quickly, the developer couldn’t even handle its popularity, and took the game down months after its launch (via Yahoo! News). All you did in the game… tap the screen to make the bird jump between pipes. There was no story. No enemies. Minimal gameplay, really. You did just one thing. Sound familiar? No one really understood why it took off, but no one can question its success. Can Yo be the Flappy Bird of communication apps?

Allow me to reach a bit further back, to little app called Twitter. Admittedly, the overall purpose and functionality of Twitter has changed over time, but its origins were relatively humble, according to co-founder Ev Williams in his interview with Inc.:

“Twitter actually changed from what we thought it was in the beginning, which we described as status updates and a social utility. It is that, in part, but the insight we eventually came to was Twitter was really more of an information network than it is a social network.”

Let us focus on the simplistic origin in its status updates. Many people in the mainstream viewed Twitter as a lesser clone of Facebook that only robbed a single aspect from it, and again, it caught on. Perhaps it was its focus on the “status update” that pushed it so far.

Right now, Yo is generating news all over on how trivial and even stupid it is, and it’s hard to both defend or attack it based on how little we can predict about trends and functionality. But what kind of an app can it be if it can only do one thing? Yes, if you have an app that is exclusively used for one thing, inherently you expect it to do that thing well, but can Yo even say “Yo” more effectively than I can through text? Does Flappy Bird‘s jump work better than Mario’s jump because that’s all it does? And did Twitter share your status update any better than Facebook when it first came out?

Technology has a tendency to turn perspective on its head and shake things up, even over the most minuscule of things. It helps us find things we didn’t even know we wanted in a way we’d never expect. Is the Yo App another case this?

So what are you thoughts on Yo? Love it? Hate it? And if you love it… just what in the heck are we missing?