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30 million users strong, Kik Messenger reinvents MMS to take on WhatsApp

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kik messenger for iphone
kik messenger for iphone

Kik Interactive today announced the launch of Kik Messenger 6.0 for iPhone and Android. The new app looks much the same, but forgoes conventional media attachments and pasting in URLS in favor of letting you embed YouTube videos, images from the web, and doodles using downloadable "Cards." The company also announced some usage numbers: 30 million people have downloaded Kik, and 100,000 people have signed up each day for the last several months. While CEO and Founder Ted Livingston declined to provide daily or monthly usage numbers, he made clear that the battle for messaging in the United States is only between Kik and WhatsApp — which seems to be in the lead given its recent user numbers and consistently high ranking in the App Store.

"HTML 5 today sucks."

Whereas WhatsApp has focused on replacing SMS, Livingston believes that offering privacy by way of a username will help his company win out in the long run. "This will cause short term pain," he says, "but long term this is gonna be very valuable, because users won't be afraid to share how to get in touch with them." On WhatsApp, for example, a user you're chatting with has your phone number, which is a lot more difficult to block if they turn into a creep. He also hopes that the app's new HTML 5 Cards (little apps that live inside Kik) will give them an edge, since they work across iOS and Android, and add functionality without soiling Kik's main feature: text chatting. "We see people ruin their apps by adding a million features," Livingston says. "We said we are going to find a way to add features people want without ruining the core Kik experience."

"HTML 5 today sucks," Livingston says. "Scrolling sucks, and there are no transitions. It's obvious [HTML 5 apps] are websites and not apps." Companies like Facebook and Tumblr recently rebuilt their apps to avoid using HTML 5, but Kik instead decided to spend the last year and a half rewriting HTML 5 libraries and tools to make the Cards function as if they were native apps. "The end result is indistinguishable from native," he says, but doesn't screw up the attractive Kik chat experience with colors, wallpapers, status updates, and other plug-ins. And since the Cards are written on the web, Kik can add new ones to its library of Cards at any time — and it intends to. "We can build out hundreds of cards that the user can go in and add," he says. "It's going to keep us ahead of our competitors."