“Yalla” – The voice-based social networking App that helps you make friends

Similar to text boards online, Yalla encourages its users to engage with one another – with a twist. (Photo: Yalla Tech)
AMMAN — TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms that have managed to strike it big with their consumer base have had one thing in common – they targeted a specific demographic through amending their services to match its needs.اضافة اعلان

In other words, a unique product that is delivered to the right people at the right time.

While these applications do not necessarily cost you money, your time is valuable – and your time spent on each app is considered by these companies as their metric of success.

While Instagram is the de facto go-to for showcasing your photography, Twitter for news and Tik-Tok for creative video entertainment, the voice-centric social networking and entertainment app landscape has been relatively cool for the last several years – until Yalla came along, that is.

Yalla is the largest voice chat platform, in terms of revenue, within the MENA region. It also known as the “Tencent” of the Middle East as the company has for all intents and purposes been aiming to mimic the success tech giant platforms that have seen immense success in Chinese markets.

Yalla’s concept was developed by a Chinese national by the name of Yang Tao, who, after spending 10 years in the UAE, decided to establish the Yalla brand and work on building what was missing from the MENA app market. With the company being established in 2016, it went on to create multiple apps, namely two games and the Yalla group voice chat platform.

Yalla acts as a regular social media platform that promotes new experiences and sharing your favorite moments with the online world. (Photo: Turner Novak) 

Yalla is relatively straight forward. You get to join hundreds of various public chat rooms segmented by age, topic, and interests and make friends. Users are naturally prompted and encouraged to create rooms of their own to find like-minded people to chat with.

With a monthly userbase of 12 million and the company going public in the United States, it is hard to say that Yalla hasn’t found similar success to its Chinese counterpart, albeit at lower profitability. The founder stated that a cumulative 310 million hours were spent by users in their voice chat rooms, and over 407 million hours in Yalla Ludo, their gaming addition to the platform.

Still, even with a relatively small userbase compared to its competitors, according to Tao, users spend an average of 5 hours on their app, often listening in on others’ input on a given topic. With the app encouraging voice chats over video chats, Yalla has managed to stay within the cultural norms of the Middle East while developing a product that appeals to a specific demographic.

Due to COVID-19, the app has seen tremendous growth as more people felt isolated in their homes. Through Yalla, they found conversations that appealed to their interests and friendships that have the potential to go off-platform. Due to cultural differences within the different MENA markets, expats and locals in the modern world of hyper-focus on technology have been quoted to have had difficulties meeting people that were outside of their common social circle. While Yalla’s goal is not solely to act as a meeting platform, it certainly is a positive by-product of their efforts.

The platform also uses AI and manual reviews to ensure that their single most important policy is adhered to – no PRP talk (Politics, Religion and Adult content). According to Tao, this has been key to ensuring success within the region as due to religious and cultural norms, such topics are considered to be highly taboo, and a platform that would enable itself to be festered with such content is unlikely to exist for very long. Aside from these controversial topics, however, the platform is completely open to any and all types of conversations for people to engage in, be it discussing the latest episode of a popular TV series or the latest news about a particular sport.

Despite this, the app has seen stagnation in marketing and growth due to its monetization model. While its user base continues to grow, its revenue per individual user has dropped significantly over the last five years. As a result, the release of updates and new features on the app has slowed, leading to a decrease in user growth and engagement. Nonetheless, Tao stated that through newfound capitol, he is confident that Yalla will diversify its line of services to better attract and retain users while maintaining a fair monetization system.

While Yalla has nowhere near the userbase of Tik-Tok, Instagram or even Twitch, the platform does cater to a very particular market — one that has much to say and intends to listen and learn from others.

The app is available on the IOS and Android with cross-store functionality, meaning that both IOS and Android users share the same pool of chatrooms. 

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