When an app that sent only the word “yo” attracted millions of downloads, the world threw up its hands and wailed about the frivolousness of young people and social media.
While some supporters of the two-month-old app, including those who invested US$1 million in it, claimed it was being written off too soon, few probably expected it to become a lifesaver.
But the app’s booming user base, which Yo founder Or Arbel says has grown by two million in the past three weeks, has attracted the attention of a popular Israeli missile alert system app called Red Alert: Israel, as the situation in Israel has deteriorated rapidly.
Red Alert was launched when the founders became concerned people wouldn't be able to hear the official sirens during bombing.
The app sends a message 15 seconds before a missile hits. The message is triggered by the alerts sent by the Israel Defence Force that set off the warning sirens.
Co-founder Ari Sprung told the Times of Israel they were using "joke app" Yo to reach a larger audience.
Arbel, an Israeli software developer, first found out they were using his app to reach millions of subscribers via a tweet.
Mr Arbel told Fairfax Media he didn’t anticipate the app being used in this way, but he was thrilled to see it take off.
“I didn't anticipate the situation going right now in Israel, so I can't say I thought about Yo being used in a situation like this.”
Orbel had made his app open for collaboration by making the application programming interface (API) public. APIs let software programs talk to one another with a set of defined rules.
Red Alert has used the Yo API to enable its users to subscribe to the service and receivemessages if they’re in the warning area for a missile. “But this is exactly the reason we made our platform public. Let smart people use it in a lot of different ways,” said Arbel, who added that his team had much bigger plans for Yo.