Well this is odd. It looks like Yahoo is releasing a new messaging app. The invite-only service is called Squirrel, as Android Police reports, and honestly it looks a lot like Slack, but with a focus on families instead of office productivity. It might turn out to be a huge hit, just a new, creepy way for Yahoo to gather more data about you, or maybe it’s simply yet another messaging app doomed to failure.
Right now Squirrel isn’t publicly available, so you won’t get far in the sign up process unless you’ve got a friend with a code. Judging from Yahoo’s teaser images, the app looks virtually identical to a number of modern messaging services (think Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Discord) from the past five years. The advertised features are so standard fare, it makes me wonder why Yahoo’s bothering to release Squirrel in the first place.
The app’s description lists straight-forward features like rooms, “for specific people or topics;” muting, to “turn off notifications in rooms that are a snore;” blasts, to “make sure everyone in your group sees important messages;” and so on. And upon closer inspection of the icon itself, there is a hash, basically Slack’s logo, on the squirrel’s ear.
But since the app was designed for use with your family and friends, maybe simplicity is a good thing? “At Oath, we’re always looking for creative ways to add value to our members’ lives,” a spokesperson told Gizmodo. “Right now we’re experimenting with a new invite-only messaging app focused on improving everyday-life group communication in a fun and organized way.” With no need to worry about things like app integrations or workplace limitations, Yahoo has created a barebones interface for group messaging.
The most intriguing part of Squirrel is in one of its promotional images concerning privacy: “Your privacy respected. Invite with a link, no need to share your contacts with us.” Yahoo’s track record with privacy and security is far from spotless. In October 2017, the company confirmed all 3 billion Yahoo users accounts were hit by a security breach in August 2013. As a result, the Security and Exchange Commission fined Yahoo $35 million for failing to disclose the breach when the company discovered it.