Kik Messenger is a once in a lifetime startup success story, going from 0 to 1.5 million users in 18 days. Aside from being free, the app is available multi-platform and is insanely fast, in fact its speed is what sets it apart from competitors like What’sApp and Ping Chat.
“It’s like you can feel the person on the other side of the chat” says founder Ted Livingston. Of Kik’s 1.5 million users about 620K are on iPhones and the rest are spread out evenly between Blackberry and Android.
Hailed by its fans as a “Blackberry Messenger for the rest of us,” Kik is an example of a pivotal pivot. Founded in January 2009, the service was centered around SMS until Livingston decided to relaunch the product as in-app messaging about two weeks ago.
The app was designed for virality, making it super easy to send friends an invitation containing the install link via text, tweet or email. It also comes with Kik user suggestions from your contacts baked in, taking away the work of having to manually find them.
It’s almost poetic that the feature responsible its impressive stickiness would currently be the subject of contention.
A recent Quora thread goes into how the Kik app might be in violation of Apple’s iOS Developer Terms of Service, as it automatically imports your contacts without asking for permission, requires users to share information in order to function and does not give users ready access to its own TOS.
Here are the specific app store clauses that were brought up in reference to Kik.
3.3.9 You and Your Applications may not collect user or device data without prior user consent, and then only to provide a service or function that is directly relevant to the use of the Application, or to serve advertising. You may not use analytics software in Your Application to collect and send device data to a third party.
3.3.10 You must provide clear and complete information to users regarding Your collection, use and disclosure of user or device data. Furthermore, You must take appropriate steps to protect such data from unauthorized use, disclosure or access by third parties. If a user ceases to consent or affirmatively revokes consent for Your collection, use or disclosure of his or her user or device data, You must promptly cease all use.
The App Store requires both an explicit “User Permission” function as well as direct access to an app TOS, neither of which Kik has. The app also comes under some GetSatisfaction fire for similar multi-platform privacy holes and the fact that there’s no opt out for it messaging your contacts when you join.
When asked about these issues, Livingston, who commented both on the Quora and GetSatisfication threads, said that a fix (like a popup asking users for permission to share their information) was in the works, asap.
Livingston, who is concerned about user privacy, was baffled as to why the app had been accepted into the App Store four times without contest if it in fact was in violation of Apple’s TOS, which it looks to be. “It was re-approved by Apple two days ago,” he said, which is days after the first TOS issues were brought up. I am similarly confused, especially since app has been one of the top downloaded free apps in the App Store since it’s relaunch.
Livingston joked, “Maybe Apple is letting it slide as a way to crack BlackBerry Messenger’s hold on the market?”
Apple has not responded to my requests for more information. Full iOS SDK Terms of Service, embedded below.