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Yo! upgrade shows app wasn’t a dumb idea, after all

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The Yo! app that everyone laughed at last year because all it did was flash a Yo! at contacts has come out with an important upgrade. It’s a new location function, said Yo! CEO Or Arbel, and it “opens up a whole world of possibilities for both users and service-providers using the Yo API.”

Yo! attracted a lot of criticism from tech experts – along with a lot of laughs. The app, created by an Israeli team working in San Francisco, sends a “Yo!,” a word akin to “hey there” or “what’s happening,” to contacts. For this app, creators Arbel and Moshe Hogeg got a million dollars in funding. Top blogger Robert Scoble called it “the lamest app around,” apparently speaking for many in the tech community, and Israeli start-up expert Eran Laniado called it a gimmick — and a “goofy” one at that.

Yo! is unique for its single-purpose functionality, but that functionality is nothing new, said Laniado, managing director of Israeli business advisory firm BMN!, which works with dozens of veteran tech companies and start-ups in Israel. “It is similar to Facebook stripped off all of its functions except ‘Poke’,” a function that allows users to let their friends know they are there, without actually sending them a message.”

As such, said Laniado, Yo! was clearly a gimmick but with a little work, it could be much more. “Users lose interest in gimmicks quickly. But if this app decides to be a little more than that, and add, for example, more types of communication (emoticons, text), well — isn’t this what Facebook and WhatsApp are all about?”

The Yo! people took Laniado’s advice – or advice from someone who thinks like him – because the app is now more than it was. With its new update, Yo! becomes much more functional, Arbel insists. The location function is available as an API for iOS 8, the new operating system announced by Apple last month, so developers can create versions of the app for specific needs.

“Service providers can now offer their users one-tap location-based solutions to their customers’ needs,” the company said. “Want to know if it’s going to rain where you are? ‘Yo’ a weather service! Want a cab to pick you up? ‘Yo’ a taxi service! It’s that simple – and the applications are limitless.”

Versions of these apps are already available on the Yo Index site. With YoYouTube, for example, users can get a Yo! notification when channels they subscribe to are updated. YoMyPackage tells you where a FedEx or US Post Office package is at the moment when you send a Yo! and your package tracking number. Send out a Yo! with the StarbucksMap app and it will respond with the location of the nearest coffee shop in the chain. There’s even one that will return the latest updates about the Kardashian clan, that favorite of gossip magazines and TV shows, if you shoot it a Yo!

And this is just the beginning, said Arbel. “I can’t wait to see where our users take this. I’m sure our platform and API will give Yo users real solutions – without having to compromise on simplicity.”