Ok, Ok. We'll Talk About "Yo."
Friday, June 20, 2014 - 10:24 AM
This week, the tech press did backflips over an app called "Yo." It's a messaging app that allows users to text the word "Yo." Nothing else. Just the word "Yo." Let that sink in for a second before we move on.
It was heralded as genius. it was derided as stupid. It was the subject of a conversation about meaning and subtext in online communication. It was given the avant garde treatment it deserved. Disregarding what was written about it, yo has cornered the internet's fickle attention long enough to enter the top 10 in the App store. By any metric, that's a victory.
We didn't write about it. Mostly because we thought there wasn't much to say that hadn't already been said. I think I acknowledged its existence on my twitter feed. Yo.
But now I'm writing about it. Why am I writing about it? Because it appears that not only is it zeitgeisty, it's vulnerable. As in insecure. A couple of enterprising Georgia Tech hackers figured out how to reveal the phone number of any user, and to spoof numbers to make it look like you're receiving a "Yo" from another number. It's not like it's leaking credit card numbers or anything, but generally when people are using an app like this, they're hoping to obscure information like their numbers, so it's definitely an issue.
The founder of Yo, Or Arbel, has confirmed the hack and promises that vulnerabilities will be fixed in short order, but has not revealed exactly what the problem was.
It's instructive to watch this unfold. Yo took the story of just about any app or service that grabs tech press attention, and compressed it into just a couple of days. First, it got attention not for its utility, but for its novelty. Then there was an argument over its utility. Followed by a stories about just what it all means, and profit motive. It was mocked, it was praised. And then it got hacked. Yo's narrative is like the ship in the bottle version of just about everything that has come before it. Or maybe app news hype-cycle is just getting faster.