Despite the launch of iMessage by Apple in 2011 and an attempt by RIM to shut the service down over patent infringement, Kik Messenger continues to grow, with 30 million users worldwide to date and almost 100,000 daily downloads. Today the Waterloo, ON-based startup announced the launch of its Kik Cards that will enable users of the platform to share content directly through Kik while still keeping the no-frills approach to the company’s real-time chat functionality. This will be the startup’s first addition to its consumer-facing features since adding group chat at the South by Southwest conference in 2011.
“People want a really clean, simple, and fast experience, so that’s what we did, Kik is two buttons and a list of conversations, and people love it,” said CEO Ted Livingston in an interview with BetaKit. “The question for us was how do we add and make a rich experience around content without hurting the simplicity of the core messaging service…cards are a mini experience around a specific type of content. The idea is that we would add tens and hundreds of these over time.”
Built using HTML5, Kik Cards integrate into Kik’s native environment allowing users to instantly add them to compliment the messaging experience with media content and hide them by swiping. The first three cards available will be a Sketch Card, which can be used to draw pictures and share, Image Search for finding and sharing images, and a YouTube Card which can be used to discover, watch, and share videos. The key part about Kik Cards is that both the content discovery and sharing happens without the user having to leave the app.
The launch of Kik Cards is one part of the company’s strategy to begin monetizing its large and steadily growing user base by charging content creators and publishers to have their card created and included in the app. Livingston envisions a card for virtually everything, ranging from existing social apps like Yelp to Cards that let users check movie listings, stream music, see the latest content from news sites, and more. According to Livingston the reason the cards are HTML5-based is so that Kik can get Cards out as quickly as possible across all the platforms that the app is currently available on, including iOS, Android, Windows, and BlackBerry.
“We have a huge audience that’s hungry for different types of content, we have a way to add content to our messenger that’s great for the user so that they can engage with what they want and not what they don’t,” Livingston added. “It’s great for content producers because all this viral sharing, I send it you, you send it your friends, and it’s great for us because it makes the experience so much richer without ruining the simplicity of the core messaging experience.”
One of the other reasons behind Kik’s popularity as an alternative to similar instant messaging apps like WhatsApp is its reliance on a username approach, letting users share their Kik ID without disclosing their phone number. With Facebook shutting down Beluga after it acquired the messaging service (shortly after it launched its standalone messenger app), the anticipated release of the new BlackBerry Messenger on the BB10 platform in 2013, and WhatsApp’s popularity, the new Kik Cards could help the messenger app stand apart from its competition. It will first have to onboard a multitude of content providers as partners and add to its roster of Kik Cards for the idea to really take off, in addition to proving to its users why its in-app Cards trump the existing means they have for sharing media content.