Kik Messenger expands functionality with ability to share media via Kik Cards

Kik Interactive announced today a new update to its iOS and Android Kik Messenger app, expanding beyond messaging with the ability to share videos, sketches and images through Kik Cards.

Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston told Inside Mobile Apps that Kik Messenger hasn’t been updated in almost a year and a half since the addition of group messaging, aside from minor updates to make the app faster and cleaner. He added that the company’s slogan for the app is “simple but perfect.”

“It’s what people want in a messenger,” he says. “It’s two buttons and a list of conversations. I’ve seen a lot of other apps start with something very simple and then ruin it over time by adding stuff to it.”

The only difference in the new version is a slide-in and slide-out handle UI on the lefthand side of the app. This is where users can access their Kik Cards. Livingston described Cards as “mini experiences built around a particular piece of content.” The initial three Kik Cards are Image Search (powered by Bing’s image search API), YouTube and Sketches. Users can access Cards by sliding out the handle and tapping “More.” Users will see a list of all available Cards and can pick and choose the Cards they want to add to their Deck. Within every Card, there’s a “Kik” button in the top right of the screen, which sends the piece of content to a Kik friend. If a user is sent message that uses a Card they don’t have, that user will receive the Card automatically. Livingston says the company eventually wants to add tens to hundreds of more Cards, covering such things as restaurant reviews, recipes, events photo albums and more.

“A use can have a mini experience completely dedicated to Youtube videos, but when they are done, the core Kik experience is identical — clean, simple, two buttons and a list of conversations,” he says.

With only a 20-person team and the ambition to make more Cards, Kik Interactive had to figure out a way to build Cards rapidly and for multiple platforms. Their solution: build the Cards using HTML5. Although Livingston says, “the big problem with HTML5 is it just sucks.” So the team built their own libraries and tools from scratch that use HTML5 as its code base in order to develop HTML5 features that feel indistinguishable from a native app, not something that feels broken or slow.

“We’ve figured out how to add all these features without hurting simplicity, but also how to build these features very quickly because its all web,” he says.

The Canadian startup company doesn’t monetize with Kik Messenger. Livingston said the company came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to monetize the core messenger. He used ICQ and Windows Messenger as examples of messaging services that never monetized. Livingston believes Kik Cards could be their avenue to start generating revenue. He said one possibility could be building a Card around a specific type of branded content. He used Converse’s website shoe customizer as an example. The company could develop a Converse shoe customizer Card where a user can send their friend a custom shoe they designed.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based Kik, which was founded in 2009, has reached 30 million registered users to date, with 100,000 new users signing up every day for the past several months.

Kik Interactive received $8 million in Series A in March 2011 led by RRE Ventures, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures.