On the issue of online privacy, I’m with TechCrunch contributor Andrew Keen when he says the Internet needs to learn to forget. And, as services like Snapchat have proven, here lies a startup opportunity if there ever was one. But at the same time, we’re also seeing a slew of apps that, in a throwback to the cyberspace of yesteryear, promise not to remember too much in the first place by playing on a sense of anonymity whereby the content creator’s identity is kept hidden.
Recent examples include Whisper, the secret sharing app backed by Lightspeed Venture Partners and others, or Unface.me, the Gossip Girl-style social service for anonymously trolling your friends. And of course there’s the anonymous (and anti-social) photo sharing app Rando, which my colleague Natasha Lomas says rekindles a much needed sense of mystery.
But what the world really needs, of course, is an anonymous meme generator with a chain letter-styled remixable twist. Meet Yarrly (to be said with your best pirate voice). Created by London-based Dave Ganly and Holly Clarke outside of their tech day jobs, the Android app lets anyone create two panel images and add text in the style of a meme maker. In this sense, it’s not dissimilar to MemeGenerator or Imgur’s MemeGen.
However, where things get interesting is not only that a yarrly’s creator remains anonymous — there’s no sign up or profiles and the only giveaway is any trail left when a yarrly is optionally shared — but the way each yarrly can be “remixed”, with the subsequent creation added to a chain, also anonymously, and the original creator being notified.
The threaded feature is also reminiscent of image message boards, which is where the app’s creators seem to have drawn their inspiration. “We want to make image conversations more immediate,” says Clarke. “With one photo it’s hard to capture a story, thought or reaction to something. We also loved the idea of capturing the fun of meme culture and rage comics but for real photos and people. This then morphed into a way to remix other photos and post them in-line, similar to an image messageboard or reddit thread”.
Interestingly, any one or both of the image panes can be swapped out when a yarrly is remixed, along with the accompanying text (see example). In this way, as the chain develops, it’s quite possible that the meme will morph into something entirely different, as well as being open to off-topic images/spam. That’s something that Clarke acknowledges, but is content for now to see how it plays out.
Currently there are no solid plans to monetize the app, should it take off. “It was a pet project for both of us, and we’ve not really thought past making it cool,” says Clarke. “Advertising is the immediate obvious one as the only in-app purchase or premium ideas we can come up with are pretty daft.”
I’d hasten to add, however, that daft ideas, especially with the freedom that a degree of anonymity brings, are sometimes the best.