One month after its merger with Daum created one of South Korea’s largest Internet companies, messaging app maker Kakao has launched Kakao Lab, which lets Android users test new features before they are added to the app. An iOS version of Kakao Lab is in the works, says the company.
Kakao Lab is interesting because not only does it give KakaoTalk’s most dedicated users access to new features before they rollout, it will also allow Kakao to perform widescale beta tests to see how popular new ideas are. Twitter launched a similar program last year, called the “Twitter for Android Experiment program,” which allows users to register and test unreleased builds of the company’s Android app.
It also parallels Facebook’s standalone app plan, which is to launch betas, see how users respond to them, then aim for 100 million users if they work before monetizing. The social network has said it plans to use a similar plan for Instagram and WhatsApp.
In order to participate in Kakao Lab, users need to sign up for the program through the messaging app’s settings menu. Two prototype features currently being tested in Kakao Lab are “keyword alerts,” which lets users disable new group chat alerts and only receive notifications for messages they want; and “move unread chatrooms to top,” which displays chatrooms with unread messages in chronological order.
“Although the features are experimental and may be removed at any time, full implementation, as well as modifications, will be based on user response,” said Kakao in a press release.
Kakao Labs is the latest move by KakaoTalk to attract and retain users as the messaging app market continues to consolidate. At the end of May, it released its first desktop client for Mac. As TechCrunch’s Danny Crichton noted after Kakao and Daum merged, that left Kik Messenger as the only major independent messaging app. Kik’s CEO Ted Livingston said after the Kakao-Daum deal that it will remain independent instead of seeking a buyer.