Why Yahoo Bought Blink, A Self-Destructing Messaging App (Yes, Exactly Like Snapchat)
Yahoo has been rethinking its app game since Marissa Mayer took over as CEO in 2012 — but whoever thought the 20-year-old tech company would be interested in self-destructing text messages? The latest acquisition for Yahoo is Blink, a Snapchat-like program that erases your texts, pictures, doodles and audio and video recordings so you can have secret chats without leaving a digital trail. The terms of the deal haven't been revealed, but the Blink blog states the company will shut down the app in the next few weeks as it makes its transition from startup to Yahoo, so Blink-ers better time their texts correctly.
In a statement, the Blink team said:
We built Blink because we believe everyone should be free to show the same honesty and spontaneity in their online conversations as they can in person. We look forward to the possibilities that will come from bringing the Blink vision to Yahoo.
A product of Meh Labs, Blink, which was initially created as Kismet, launched its self-destructing messaging just a year ago on iOS, and branched out to Android earlier this year. About half of its users are based in the United States, but the app has found many fans in the Middle East.
Although it's still unclear why Yahoo wanted the self-destructing app, it's not necessarily a surprising acquisition — self-destructing messaging is one of the hottest mobile trends and, possible, the future of mobile conversations. In 2013, Forbes reported that more teens and young adults have been gravitating to self-destructing mobile apps over time-capturing platforms like Facebook, perhaps because it adds another level of privacy to the digital world.
“They felt free and light in conversation,” startup founder Steve Chung told Forbes. “Liberated.”
According to a 2013 survey from the Pew Research Center, 26 percent of 18-to-29 year olds use Snapchat, while only five percent of 30 to 49 year olds do.
Despite Snapchat being known as the app for teen sexting, the game-changing platform did attract the attention of tech giants — namely Facebook, which offered the company a multimillion-dollar deal. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel turned down the deal, but that didn't stop Facebook from creating its own Snapchat knockoffs, including Facebook Poke. However, Business Insider reported last week that the company is now killing off its Snapchat imitators because they poorly performed in The App Store.
So, maybe this is Yahoo's chance to capitalize on the market where Facebook failed. It may also help Mayer's plan of taking the company mobile. Not only has the company made some serious overhauls to its desktop interfaces such as Yahoo News and Flickr in the last year, but it also acquired numerous apps to redefine the smartphone experience and attract new users.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last January, Mayer announced the acquisition of Aviate, a program that takes over your Android by rearranging your homepage with the apps you use the most. So, if you check Yahoo Movies every day, Aviate will put that app, along with similar ones, on your homepage. Many tech experts predict this type of software will boost the company, which has been having a tough time dominating the smartphone market.
Aside from Aviate, other newly acquired apps like Blink and Wander, a social diary platform, show that Yahoo may be trying to up its mobile game by appealing to younger users — a demographic that Yahoo is sorely missing. Not only do young adults tend to pick Gmail over Yahoo Mail, in 2013 none of Yahoo's apps ranked in the Top 100 chart of the iTunes App Store. Meanwhile, younger-appealing apps such as Twitter, Vine and Snapchat all made the cut.
It's not like Yahoo doesn't already have a sizable smartphone reach, but the company still lags behind Google and Facebook. If it's true that teens and young adults are crazy about ephemeral messaging, then an app like Blink could make Yahoo "cool" again and lift its profile among younger users. After all, 79 percent of people between 18 and 44 have their smartphones with them more than 20 hours a day — who better, then, to market to?