Jul 9, 2014 · 2 minutes

Yo is maturing faster than anyone expected.

In June, I argued that the service might not be as crazy as it seemed for thinking that it could become the notification service for businesses, despite the ridiculousness and utter simplicity of its premise. That might have seemed like a #slatepitch at the time -- and I suppose, in some ways, that's fair -- but I truly liked the idea of a service that allows businesses to easily send notifications to people.

As I wrote in that original post, which was published after Yo's aspirations were first revealed:

People want to know what’s happening, and notifications are the easiest way for them to learn about the world around them without devoting their full attention to their smartphones. That is why people have purchased smartwatches despite all of their obvious shortcomings, it’s why Apple plans to improve notifications in iOS 8, and it’s why Yo might just be on to something.
Yo has expanded since that post was published. The service can now be used to interact with smart products, thanks to a partnership with IFTTT, and can now tell people when something has been posted to their favorite WordPress-hosted website. (Which is Pando, obviously.) In a more serious example of its utility, the service has recently been repurposed to alert Israelis living outside the country about rocket strikes back home, according to a report from Fast Company.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when the average young company become something more than a novelty, but I think that in Yo's case, offering a war-time emergency alert service makes it much more than a trivial distraction.

Yo's incorporation into other services still doesn't meet the original criteria set in my post -- I want a notification service for mundane businesses like pizza shops and laundromats -- but it shows that Yo is making progress nd could eventually become something meaningful.

I'm not the only person who believed in Yo's ability to expand beyond its original application. The Verge's Ellis Hamburger wrote about the service's potential just a few days after I did:

Yo may not be the app that succeeds in divorcing apps from notifications, but one will.

And so the service that seemed like a million-dollar joke might actually have some method to its madness, believe it or not. At the very least, Yo isn’t begging us to bury our faces in our phones like every other app. It isn't telling you to look down — it’s telling you to look up. There may be some virtue in that.

Yo is starting to prove us right, at least for being slow to write it off. Now all the young company (er, product?)  has to do is convince paying businesses that it's more than just a toy -- and prevent Hodor, a similar service based on a character from Game of Thrones and his astonishingly limited vocabulary, from supplanting it with its frivolous copycatting.

[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]