In June 2014, the media and the public at large went nuts for a simple app called Yo, which did just one thing: Send a short audio clip of a person saying “Yo” to whomever you wanted from your phone.
Ridiculous? Perhaps. But it became insanely popular, attracting more than three million users at its height.
Now the Yo creators are hoping lightning will strike twice, with a new app called Yo Status. The app goes live today (February 15) for Android and iOS.
Like its predecessor, Yo Status allows you to do just one thing. But this time, instead of sending a two-character greeting, you can post your current status as a single emoji. Feeling good? 😎. Going to the gym? 💪 .
Whatever your current mood or activity, there’s an emoji for it, which Yo Status will immediately share with anyone who uses the app and has your phone number, or is connected to you on Facebook. For those who aren’t on Yo Status, you can send them updates via SMS or any other sharing platform available on your phone.
That’s about it: Yo Status is not a messaging app, it’s not even a miniature social network; there’s no feed showing past status updates. It’s just a list of the latest emojified statuses of your friends. “If I post a status and then I post another status, then you won’t see my previous one because it’s irrelevant,” says Or Arbel, Yo CEO and co-founder. “There’s just one status.”
History repeats itself?
It’s a very simple app by design, but that could be a problem. Since its massive debut in 2014, the original Yo app has all but disappeared. It’s no longer among the top downloads in the app stores for Android or iOS. The days when people used Yo to say, “I’m here, come downstairs,” or, “Thinking of you,” are long gone.
To keep Yo alive, the team behind the original app is trying to turn it into a notification tool for businesses and brands. If a courier is on his way to deliver a package, for example, you could get a “Yo” notification instead of a text message or a call.
How effective that strategy has been is unclear, and Arbel declined to say how many people and businesses are still using the original app. Nevertheless, it’s a strategy that at least has a chance of working.
Yo Status doesn’t have that same flexibility. The whole point is to share your status with friends using emoji. If no one wants to do that, then Yo Status will go nowhere.
That said, Arbel does see room for companies to use Yo Status. Weather service Poncho, which can text weather forecasts to your phone every day, has set-up Yo Status pages for New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. At a glance you can find out if the forecast in those cities calls for clouds, sun, or rain.
“There are integrations that can be done,” Arbel said. “It’s not about content, it’s more about status. If it can be portrayed by a single emoji then that’s a good use case [for Yo Status].”
There’s no doubt that people love to use emojis. The tiny ideograms are such a part of everyday parlance that Oxford Dictionaries saw fit to name 😂 as the word of the year for 2015. So perhaps there is room for a broadcast platform whose sole purpose is to post status updates in pictographic form.
But there are already many ways to share emoji with friends on networks like Twitter and Facebook, not to mention one-to-one communication platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Line, and WhatsApp.
None of those options, however, are an emoji-only platform. Before Yo Status came along, there was one other notable attempt to do something similar. Emojli was an emoji-only social network that launched in fall 2014 inspired partly by Yo and largely as a joke. On Emojli, even your username had to be written in emoji. It was a semi-serious concept that didn’t even last 12 months.
By contrast, the team behind Yo Status is deadly serious. In addition to apps for Android and iOS, Yo Status has a Chrome browser extension. You can also set your Yo Status with a tweet, or a “slash” command in Slack, the workplace chat and productivity app. Users also get their own public webpages, where anyone can check their emoji statuses. There’s even the obligatory IFTTT integration for über geeks.
Can it work? I’m skeptical. The success of Yo Status will depend on people enjoying the novelty. Once people have seen enough single smiley faces with sunglasses, thumbs up, and pizza slices, that novelty will likely wear off. At which point, Yo Status will have to figure out how to be useful or end up 💀.