The genius of extreme Internet minimalism: An app that just says "yo"

Software that reduces human existence and the need for connection to its purest essence is obviously worth millions

By Andrew Leonard
June 18, 2014 9:00PM (UTC)
main article image
(rvlsoft via Shutterstock/Salon)

Blowing up on Twitter on a Wednesday morning: the news that the developer of an app that does nothing but send the word "yo" to a chosen recipient has received $1 million in investment funding -- and is hiring!.

The Financial Times broke the story. Think Progress ties the mania to the impending doom of a tech bubble. Business Insider reports that "everyone is going crazy over" it. Vox, of course, has an explainer.


And at Salon, your grizzled veteran of two decades of Internet sturm und drang stares at his laptop and contemplates the grievous question of whether civilization has finally completed its collapse into nihilist meaninglessness or merely erupted in all-consuming surrealist folly. Yo, what is up with that?

Or both! Why choose?

But wait! Who am I kidding? There's a there, here. I can't count the number of  times in my life when I have texted or Internet-chatted a friend or my son or daughter with nothing more than the word "yo." Busy people, busy lives -- just typing "yo" is an act of extreme efficiency: Why waste any effort on more excessively alphabeted communication if your recipient is not around to engage? If Yo, as is claimed, reduces the typical number of clicks necessary to send the word "yo" from 11 to two, well then, it's only a matter of time before we see meaningful improvement in global labor productivity statistics.


But Yo also signifies something deeper, something that expresses our most essential humanity. The uttterance of the word "yo" is a declaration, first, that I exist in this world, and second, that I seek connection and community with something outside myself.

Yo ... I am here. Is anybody out there?

The word "yo" therefore provides the bedrock for both individual consciousness and the existence of society. From this perspective, the case for giving "yo" its own app for the purpose of, as the Financial Times' Tim Bradshaw put it, providing "messaging without the messages," becomes the very definition of a no-brainer. I yearn to mock, but perhaps extremism in the pursuit of pure minimalism is no vice. The reduction of all culture, all communication, and the entire digital telecommunications infrastructure to a single two-letter word? Brilliance. If it is true that our future behavior patterns will be primarily guided by the notifications that we receive from our smartphones, then what could possibly be more important than crafting the Ur-Notification app?


Genius like that is worth a lot more than a million dollars, yo.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

MORE FROM Andrew LeonardFOLLOW koxinga21LIKE Andrew Leonard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------