In a world where everyone implicitly assumes “there’s an app for that,” Yo has the potential to be a layer for all the products and services that don’t actually need — and where users don’t want — a dedicated app. Yo does this along three axes: notifications, buttons, and friction.
On the notification layer:
As notifications become more prominent in iOS 8, more companies will want access to that layer and they don’t all have compelling enough reasons for users to download their apps. In the restaurant buzzer example from earlier, it’s pretty unlikely I’d want to download the restaurant’s app just to be notified when my table is ready — even if it were an app that worked with multiple restaurants. I just wouldn’t use it enough for it to warrant downloading an app.
He goes on to cite Yo as a potential enabler of IoT connectivity as well.
I suppose the question that first comes to mind is: how easy does Yo make this for average users and how many of these would one have to set up on the platform to make the app worthwhile? Probably a lot of different answers to that depending on who you are.
Most people who mock Yo likely do not have any clue about the changes afoot on the notification screen, how younger users tend to view notifications as media (versus in-app experiences), and how the mobile gatekeepers are planning to modify their operating systems to allow for a range of actions within push notifications themselves, removing the need of opening an app entirely.
Don’t listen to all of the apocalyptic, over-the-top “bubble” talk. It’s an app that for whatever reason, has gotten traction. When you think of the statistics on how few new apps actually get traction these days, that’s not an insignificant achievement. So it isn’t surprising that they’ve gone out and raised money from interested investors. The use cases are superficial of course. But so are the use cases for most social apps. It’ll be interesting to see if they can take this initial round of buzz and build on it over time.
What’s more interesting to me is in Betaworks’ founder John Borthwick’s explanation as to why they invested:
“Over the past year we have seen a handful of apps that function exclusively in the notifications layer — i.e., the content lives in the the notification, the content is the notification,” Borthwick wrote on Betaworks’ blog. “We are fascinated by these uses of simple yes/no on/off communications tools…As the notification layer becomes the primary interface of alert-based information on your phone — as the OS’s allow navigation and controls in those alerts — there will emerge a new class of applications that mediate this layer for web sites, other apps and connected hardware.”
In fact, Mike Isaac just wrote about another of those apps, Wut, in the NYT the other day:
Most of the interaction lives on the lock screen. New messages pop up in their entirety as push notifications, meaning you do not have to unlock your phone to see what your friends are saying.
Of course people still have to download the app, so it’s not a way to do a complete end around on the app discovery problem. But it does make the idea of having to be on a user’s front page of apps in order to be “top of mind,” much less of a concern.