Kik, a popular messaging app for teenagers has reached 100-million registered users - more than half in the US - and it is also “quietly becoming a browser as well,”reports Forbes magazine.
One part of the appeal is having user names and not having to give your phone number. The free, HTML 5-based platform is adding 250,000 users a day . It is said to be growing quickly in terms of features to challenge similar apps like LINE, WeChat and now Instagram too.
The company says Kik is " the fast, simple, and personal smartphone messenger that connects you to everyone you love to talk to."
The evolution into a browser is happening through Kik Cards.
“These are essentially mobile web applications, ie. websites, designed for tiny mobile screens. Kik now offers about 32 Cards, up from six back in April when Kik was making the Cards itself," according to Forbes.
Now third-party developers are making them too. Sony Music recently launched a Kik Card for boy band One Direction.
Half of Kik’s Cards are games like Costume Party, which attracted a million fans in 22 hours. Well-known names featured include Reddit and YouTube. WattPad is there for writers and book lovers.
Says Forbes, “Installs of the free Cards have jumped from 25 million in April 2013, to 145 million today, and Kik users seem to like using them.”
Founder and CEO Ted Livingston says about 40% of Kik’s weekly active users also use the cards every week. Kik believes it can present mobile sites in a better way than, say, Safari or Firefox for mobile.
Livingston, 26, and his team wanted Kik wanted to grow without losing its simplicity. In 2011 he had decidedt they had to create a platform that allowed users to not just share messages and photos, but play games and stream videos together.
“At the core of this browser is a username-based mobile messenger,” says Livingston. “How do we discover new websites? Usually it’s when someone e-mails me a link. We think it’ll be the same on mobile. The messenger is a critical part of the mobile Web.”
How do they make money? Livingston says advertising is “definitely a big part of where we went to go.”
Kik sells digital stickers, but that business is “not interesting” to Livingston, who points to the hundreds of millions that Facebook makes in selling mobile ads for app developers.
“[Facebook is] making tons of money from advertising native apps,” says Livingston. “We want to make tons of money from advertising mobile Web apps. We think we can do it in a more compelling way than slotting into the news feed.” Livingston has not said exactly how.
According to analysis by Onavo, after people download Kik on to their phones, the next app they are most likely to install is Snapchat, and vice versa.
About 50% of Kik’s users are in the United States and next comes Saudi Arabia (!).
“It seems people there like the privacy of a user name,” says Livingston.
“Who you talk to online can get you in trouble. Not having to give out your phone number, or being able to block people, is very appealing.”
Livingston thinks Kik has managed to grab the kind of engagement with young adults that Facebook lacks.