The messaging space is a hot one these days, and early player Kik is no exception. The Waterloo-based company announced today that its cross-platform messaging app now has over 50 million registered users, and is adding new ones at a rate of over 200,000 per day. Kik recently introduced Kik Cards, an experience which lets users interact with HTML5-based mini-apps within the Kik messaging experience itself, and to date over 25 million Kik cards have been installed by users.
Kik’s growth has doubled over the past few months, so it seems like Kik Cards are striking the right chord with users. But this is also a time when the company has to prepare for a fight: Facebook’s launch of Facebook Home for Android devices is a clear-cut attempt to get users to embrace not only its social network, but also its own Messenger product. Chat Heads in particular looks to make using Messenger little more than an afterthought, rather than an active choice users have to make.
Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston admitted that the similarities between what Kik is trying with Cards and what Facebook is doing with Facebook Home is interesting. I suggested that where Kik wants to put an app experience within its messaging platform, Facebook wants to extend its messaging platform across the app experience of other – two opposite approaches to accomplishing a similar thing, namely increased engagement.
“Messaging is at the center, and so fundamentally you’re trying to build a platform around it,” Livingston said in response. “Do you do that by trying put messaging on top of everything, or by putting everything inside of the messenger? It’s a similar problem, but a very different solution.”
What Kik is doing to solve that problem seems to be working. A recent survey showed that Facebook and other social networking sites are losing their popularity among teens, according to Piper Jaffray. Teens instead are turning to alternate social tools, including Vine, Snapchat, Wanelo, 4chan, and Kik, all of which were left off the original list issued by Piper Jaffray but received top mention as write-ins by teens about apps not listed.
Kik’s 50 million users is not isolated in terms of its success. LINE has over 130 million users, and even MessageMe, a relative newcomer, has already topped the 1 million mark. There seems to be a rush on in terms of messenger tool adoption, and big companies like Facebook and Google have clearly recognized that, the former with Facebook Home and Messenger, and the latter with its upcoming Babel unified chat service.
Kik is also updating its iOS and Android apps today to version 6.3 to help it continue to gain new traction in this brewing confrontation. The new version introduces in-app push notifications, which means that while you’re browsing Kik, you’ll get an indicator that a new Kik Card has been sent to you by one of your contacts. It should help spur even greater adoption of the new service, which remains an internal tool, but will soon be made available to outside developers via an official SDK.
As lines are drawn in this battle for the next generation of social networking, Kik’s Cards are an important strategy in long-term plans for monetization for the company. So far, it looks like the foundation laid is a solid one, based on these engagement and adoption numbers.