Kik Is Launching a Way for Users to Share Chatbot Invites With Their Friends

Messaging app wants brands and games to go viral

Kik is launching a way for users to share chatbots with friends by allowing them to "invite" other users to try out various games, news organizations and brands on the the messaging app.

In April, the Canadian company launched a Bot Shop featuring dozens of automated messaging services meant to entertain, inform or help customers. Kik says the total number of available bots has grown to 70 in the past three months, putting it on track to hit 200 by the end of the year. However, there has been some difficulty with users discovering which ones they might find valuable.

The invite feature, which debuts today, could help chatbots "grow virally," according to Laura Newton, Kik's product manager.

"Right now, discovery is done mainly through the bot shop, which is great for those who are proactively looking for bot experiences and different things to try," Newton said in an interview. "The things I discover myself are valuable to me, but the things my friends recommend to me are that much more valuable. So if I'm loving this experience and I want someone to check it out, this experience will facilitate that."

The 70 bots in the Kik-sanctioned shop aren't the only ones built for the platform. Developers have also built another 6,000 as of a month ago, Newton said. And while those aren't available widely, developers can have as many as 50 users test them during a beta phase with the goal of eventually offering them more broadly.

The first bot to receive the "invite" feature is a game called Zombie Invasion. With the addition, the game—which already is one of Kik's most popular bots—will allow players to message a friend to try it out as well.

While Zombie Invasion is the first, developers will be able to work with Kik to add the feature as well. Newton said the feature is fairly quick to add, which could mean other bots from brands such as Yahoo, The Weather Channel, H&M and Funny Or Die could all soon receive the update.

Kik isn't the only app building out its bots. Other messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger have also seen growth since launching this spring.