How Dead Apps and Platforms Can Make a Comeback

Becoming popular once more

Key Takeaways

  • Yik Yak is returning as an app four years after it shut down.
  • Experts say apps and platforms can make a comeback by going viral, ironing out past problems, and cashing in on nostalgia. 
  • Old apps made new still have problems to overcome, especially if things have changed since they were last online.
People on a train scrolling through their phones.

Robin Worrall / Unsplash

Apps and platforms from the past have the potential to make a comeback in the present, but experts say it has to be done right. 

The digital graveyard of apps that were once popular is filled to the brim with examples like Vine, Meerkat, Myspace, and the like. Of course, being a popular app in 2012 takes a different set of tech and features than being popular in 2021, but modernizing an old platform for today's users might bring your old favorite apps back to life.

"In this age of make-overs and version updates, any comeback is possible," said Arvind Patil, a business developer at Selectra, in an email interview with Lifewire. "This being said, it remains a fact that it requires a monumental effort to rebuild technological infrastructure and rekindle public interest."

Yik Yak Comes Back

One prime example of a formerly dead app coming back to life is Yik Yak. The app initially became popular in 2013 thanks to its anonymous messaging boards, especially on college campuses. Unfortunately, it ultimately shut down in 2017 due to too much bullying, harassment, and threats on the platform, but the app promises to be different this time. 

The company said its new priority will be combating bullying and hate speech on its platform. The updated Community Guardrails prohibit users from posting bullying messages or using hate speech, making threats, or sharing anyone's private information. Users who violate these policies even once will be immediately banned from Yik Yak. 

Yik Yak app

Yik Yak

And so far, the app's return has proven to be fruitful. According to data from Sensor Tower, the re-launched app saw about 107,000 installs in its first two days. In addition, when Yik Yak relaunched on August 16, it ranked number 66 among the top free iPhone apps on the US App Store, and now it has moved up to number 18.

Going Viral Again

Experts say several necessary catalysts must occur for a successful comeback to happen, one of them being virality. 

"For an app to return to the public eye and see increased user activity, the app must appear topical and relevant once again," David Batchelor, an entrepreneur and founder of DialMyCalls, said in an email interview with Lifewire. "This can be achieved by various means—for example, if the target audience sees a thought leader or influencer use the app."

Batchelor added that apps can become successful once more if they improve the user experience or interface and iron out past issues, as Yik Yak has promised to do in its re-release. 

Another huge reason apps and platforms can make a comeback is because of nostalgia. "Apps like Yik Yak, etc., capture the attention of the public instantly, especially teenagers," Patil added. 

"Upon revival, memories are brought back, and the once-teens, who are now adults, would surely install them and introduce the younger generations to them, as well."

Someone looking at a social media profile online.

Erik Lucatero / Unsplash

Same Challenges 

However, the challenges of a platform’s past can still come back to haunt it even after it’s been given a new life. Andrew Selepak, a social media professor at the University of Florida, said there’s a reason why these sites shut down in the first place. 

"Social media sadly is full of trolls, bullying, and hate messages, and Yik Yak with its anonymity and use among high school and college students was at the epicenter of this dark side of social media, and that was in 2017," Selepak said in an email interview with Lifewire. 

Yik Yak was plagued with being banned from college campuses and even threats of school shootings made on the app, since its anonymous nature allowed users to become bolder in their posts. 

A social media platform that lets us vent anonymously might fill a void that we don’t currently have, but Selepak said it could always turn into a hotbed of false information, threats, and anger towards others, as we have seen on social media as a whole over the past year. 

"As it feels like the world continues to burn, welcome to 2021 Yik Yak. We will see if you make it to 2022," he said.

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