Messenger and WhatsApp may be the 800-pound gorillas in the chat space thanks to Facebook’s significant reach, but Waterloo-based Kik is rapidly building a young, dedicated audience of users that are already showing interest in bots.
Today, onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt NY, Kik CEO Ted Livingston divulged some insights on how Kik has been growing over the past year. Namely the platform, which was recently given a $1 billion valuation, now boasts more than 300 million registered users, growing from 200 million in January of last year. He also revealed that Kik, which reaches 40 percent of U.S. teens, now boasts more than six thousand bots.
Bots have gathered a good deal of attention since Facebook Messenger started pushing them heavily, but Kik has actually been experimenting with bots for the past two years. There may be “tens of thousands” of developers already building bots for Messenger, but Livingston believes that Kik is better situated to host bots that people will actually use.
Livingston sees the current, more text-based, approach to chatbots as something similar to the way companies were approaching websites in 1996. He believes that soon platforms will see the full bot potential and put more effort into giving devs tools to create more streamlined experiences for users.
Summing up the advantages of bots as a platform, Livingston cited “no downloads, no new account, no new interface” as the major differentiating features.
Livingston did caution against the strictly conversational, text-based approach being pursued on other platforms, but said that overall it was still “the early days,” and there was still lots of experimentation in the space. What he envisions is a more interface-centric approach that leads to less taps and more seamless usage.
“A lot of people are taking that and saying, oh, to order a pizza you should just write that out, like, ‘Hey there, I’m Ted, and I’d like one large pizza with pepperoni, please,'” Livingston said. “That’s like 100 taps. I just want to click ‘one large pepperoni pizza.'”
Overall, Livingston believes that the era of native apps may be nearing an end and that bots have huge potential, though the tools for devs to build them are going to need a little TLC for chatbots to reach ubiquity.