If you’re over 25, you’ve probably never heard of Yubo. This application, which looks like a kind of “Tinder” of friendship, is indeed intended for teenagers and (very) young adults. There are more than 25 million people in the world who use it. I wanted to test it, and I got a hell of a kick out of it.
Yubo was founded by three Frenchmen: Sacha Lazimi, Jeremiah Aouate, and Arthur Patora. The startup was born in 2015 and has been thriving ever since. It now has 25 million users, according to a press release sent to Numerama, and its team has just completed a €11.2 million fund-raising campaign to accelerate its international development. In 4 years, users would have made 2 billion friends, exchanged 10 billion messages and made more than 30 million live videos. The majority of them, Sacha Lazimi told Numerama, are said to be between 13 and 19 years old.
The application logo. // Source: Yubo
Yubo is an application that contains multiple features. One part is dedicated to “swipes”. It’s a little bit the same principle as on the Tinder dating application: you see a series of profiles scrolling by, with a first name, an age, one or more photos, and sometimes a short description. If the profile sounds interesting, we can like it. Otherwise, we pass. If the person likes us and we like them too, it’s a match: we can then exchange private messages.
There is also a section dedicated to “lives”. These are videos that you record live with your smartphone. Several people can film themselves and talk at the same time. You can also be a simple spectator and exchange in writing, via a chat room. The special thing about these live shows is that they are public: you can join those of complete strangers, in France as well as on the other side of the world. Many people also use it to chat with their friends,” says Sacha Lazimi. He says that some people use the application to do homework together, talk about the blockades at their high schools or as a chat room to play Fortnite.
For boomers, Yubo is all about empty screens and a bot trying to chat with you // Source: An old man from Numerama in age Yubo(29 years old)
Signing up for Yubo is very easy. All you need is a profile picture, a nickname, an age, and a phone number to validate your profile.
The most important criterion is age. If you’re 26 or older, you can forget about the application. One Numerama team member tried to register with his real age, 29, and couldn’t find anyone to talk to – the application is literally empty. With my 25 year old female profile, I found a little more profiles to swiper and live videos, although the co-founder of the application told me that being 16 or 17 years old would have been much more fun.
The application prohibits me from talking to minors, because I am of age. It operates in age groups: 13-17 year olds on one side, over 18 year olds on the other. There is also an intermediate age group, 17-19, which corresponds to the age of high school students. “They are allowed to watch each other’s live videos, but not to send private messages to each other,” says Sacha Lazimi about the latter category.
This limit, as with all other applications of this type, is easy to circumvent: it would be enough to lie about one’s age. The risk of paedophilia had been mentioned in the media.
In an attempt to avoid this, Yubo offers a certification service. You can prove your identity by downloading an ID on a partner application, called Yoti. The latter ensures that all data is encrypted – the key to decrypt it being contained on the user’s phone – that it cannot access it in clear text, and that the information is not resold to any third party. I personally didn’t come across any certified profiles.
Sacha Lazimi also told us that the platform, unlike many of its competitors, carried out proactive moderation: each profile would be checked by moderators, to verify that the photo complies with the rules of use, and that the age of the person appearing in it is in line with the declared age. There are moderators in each country where the application is available, but Yubo does not wish to communicate the number of moderators. Not only do they have to deal with this age issue: the app has also been accused of unwittingly encouraging the harassment of some young people.
I personally started my little tour of the application with “swipes”. There was a bit of everything: men in suits and pseudo-virile poses, bathroom selfies, a few hen’s ass mouths 2002 style or poses like fallen poets.
Profiles to be swiped. // Source: Numerama / YuboScreenshots
Several women mentioned that they were there “only for friendship“. Only one user made a more or less explicit reference to sex, thanks to a clever combination of emojis fingers.
After about fifteen swipes, I came across a profile that contained a Snapchat thumbnail, which allows you to find a profile by scanning it. He promised ” rocma yellow“. Understand: drugs from Morocco. I would have liked to ask him a little more, but unfortunately he never answered my positive swipe. This type of profile, which otherwise contained no real photo (which is mandatory in theory, even if our boomer has put his rabbit in and was not worried), is of course forbidden on the platform. But it would have to be reported for it to be quickly moderated. Sacha Lazimi tells us that their algorithms are not yet trained to spot certain words, such as “yellow” in profiles. He assures us that this will be updated quickly.
Screenshots Yubo / Numerama
Shortly after discovering this amazing profile, I had my first match with 24-year-old Alexis. On his profile, he defines himself as a music fan, who likes people “with a BIG GRAIN of FOLIE“. To be honest, I said I was a journalist right off the bat. He explained to me that he was working in the IT sector, and that he had come across the application a bit by chance, to see why it worked so well. He’s been seeing her for about a month now.
“I have found people to chat with about music, including an American teenager who has a physical disability and is learning to play guitar despite his disability, he told me. There’s a little bit of everything, profile level.”
When I asked him if we were really only looking for friendship on Yubo, he didn’t hesitate for long. For him, we also come on the app to flirt a little. He defines Yubo as a “Tinder, but less aggressive“, where people would take more time to get to know each other.
To find out more – and because no one wanted to mate me even though I put a nice chat in my profile picture – I decided to explore the part dedicated to live videos. The first live show visited was attended by 17 people, mainly Americans. Three men had their cameras on. Two were quietly sipping a cup of tea or coffee, the third was obviously arguing with a woman, whose voice I could only hear. I stayed 2 minutes, listening to this argument that seemed to have no head or tail, captivated like in front of a reality TV episode.
I then clicked on the live of Leo001214, where 4 people were present. Surprise: Leo was actually filming himself taking a nap. According to Sacha Lazimi, it would be quite common. No one was talking, so I was gone, too, after a few seconds.
Lives that challenge you to seek the meaning of life. // Source: Screenshots Yubo / Numerama
I then targeted the French lives, until I came across Marie’s face-camera video. It was a kind of frequently asked questions, in which people who obviously didn’t know her any more than I did asked her details about her life. I learned that Marie was the mother of a 5-year-old boy, that it rained as much at home as in Paris, and that she was depressed. “I can’t wait till my boyfriend gets home from work now so I can piss him off. “I said, ‘I’m, too,'” I said, “I’m,” just to see. Afterwards, I didn’t know what to say, so I watched the failed flirting attempts of a guy named Jordan, whose streaker didn’t give a damn. She dragged off to her kitchen for coffee and I decided to join another live one.
This time it was a bunch of friends getting together to talk about anything and everything, just like we used to do on MSN. They were lying in bed, barely speaking. One of them suddenly screamed: ” Fuckin’ cat just farted, stinks of death..” I’m off the live show. I tried Amélie’s, whose camera was facing her immaculate ceiling. I could only hear her singing “Love from you”, she didn’t respond to messages. I ended up leaving this live too, to go back to the best of all these contents: the live of Leo, who was still sleeping. Yubo offered me to boost his live show for free, to attract more spectators. Of course I did. People came in, asked in writing what we were doing there, watching a stranger sleep. I didn’t know what to answer, so I ended up closing the app.
I realized I suddenly felt very old.