Kik Interactive updates Kik Messenger, CEO Ted Livingston says messaging is the killer app in mobile

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Kik logoKik Interactive today announced the launch of its latest version (version 6.3) of Kik Messenger for iOS and Android, which adds new features like in-app push notifications and improved organization of its HTML5 web-apps called Kik Cards.

The latest version of Kik adds two new features. First, the ability to organize Kik Cards. Now instead of all Cards in one big pile in the slide out drawer on the left side of the app, Cards are split into two groups within the drawer — “Recent” and “Favorites.”  A user can now see the most recent Cards they’ve used, which are ordered by when a Card was last opened. Users can also pin a card to their “Favorites” for speedier access. Second, Kik added in-app push notifications for the HTML5-based Kik Cards, a first for HTML5 development, says Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston.

There are currently five Kik Cards to choose from, including YouTube, Reddit, Image Search, Sketch and a brick smashing game called Squared. Kik added Squared about four weeks ago and it’s already generated more than one million downloads. Overall, since launching Kik Cards about four months ago, Kik has seen 25 million installs of Cards, which is about half of its user base installing Cards. Livingston says Kik is also adding another new Card with this release, a meme generator that comes with standard memes that users can fill out and share with friends.

push3Messaging apps and services has been a hot topic in mobile for months now. Facebook recently unveiled Facebook Home (which launches tomorrow), a new Android home screen experience that’s deeply integrated with the social network’s features, especially messaging. Livingston believes Facebook made it clear to the world, why messaging is so important on mobile.

“They’re making a bold statement that messaging is the killer app in mobile,” he says. “Until recently, people dismissed all these group messenger apps, but this is Facebook clearly saying the person that owns messaging is going to win this era of computing period. Home fundamentally is all about messaging, from the Chat Heads to the home screen, it’s all messaging.

“On the one side, it’s a great statement for us because were a leading messenger and here’s Facebook, the No. 1 social company in the world, saying it’s all about messaging. That is great for us. In terms of what affect it will have on us, every time one of these messengers has come out or gotten new focus from a big player, whether it be Facebook or Apple with iMessenger, it’s only fueled the growth of Kik.”

Since we last spoke with Kik about four months ago, its registered user count has nearly doubled, with now more than 50 million registered users. Kik also doubled the amount of users who sign up every day for the app from 100,000 to more than 200,000. Livingston says what sets apart Kik from Facebook is that it’s mobile-first, meaning there’s no such thing as offline, and users have complete control over their privacy, so they can actually go out and connect with new people.

“The crazy thing is, our user base has been doubling like this for the last two years,” he says. “It’s just now when it doubles each time, the numbers are getting really, really big. It comes from the network effect. As more people get on, they want to get more friends on, in terms of connecting with people you know, but the other really interesting thing is connecting with people you don’t know.”

Speaking of the network effect, messaging apps such as Line Corp.’s Line and KakaoTalk turned into native messaging platforms with the ability for games and other apps to integrate with Line or Kakao’s message services. It’s worked very well for both Line and Kakao so far. Livingston points out that, even before Line and Kakao’s native messaging platforms, Kik introduced the Apps That Kik API almost two years ago, which allowed third-party apps to integrate with Kik’s platform.

Although Livingston says Kik moved away from a native platform to its current HTML5 web-based platform for its Kik Cards (the app itself is still written in native code) because a native platform was clunky and not seamless. Livingston, using Squared as an an example, says a user can let their friend know they want to play Squared with them by sending an invite, and that friend can install and start playing in one-click, while if Kik Cards were built around a native platform, a user would have to hop out of Kik, go to the app store, download the app, input their password, set up an account and so on.

“We were the first to lock onto wrapping a platform around a messenger, but we thought there has to be a better way than native, we have to do this in HTML5,” Livingston says.

Livingston says the Canadian developer will continue building at the platform, and eventually opening it up to all developers at some point. Since Kick Cards are HTML5-based, any developer could potentially make an HTML5 app that would live and work within Kik’s platform.