In my post the other day about business cards, I mentioned Kik Messenger as being an awesome replacement for SMS. It really is, and I want to take a minute to tell you why. In the interest in disclosure, I will tell you that the founder and CEO of Kik is a personal friend of mine. You might think that makes me biased... but remaining in the interest of disclosure I will also tell you that I'm a technology professional, who evaluates a lot of software and services and then has to stick with those decisions for the long-haul. So... whatever man. Ted showed me Kik back before it was called Kik and it was intended to perform an entirely different function. A function that was pretty sweet, in it's own right. After some fine-tuning (or shall we call it "fund-tuning"?) Kik Messenger was released to the smartphone world. You can get it today for your iOS or Android device (WP7 coming soon, if not out already), and it's basic essence is an MMS-like chat application. If you've used SMS (text messages, to my North American friends) or Blackberry Messenger, you'll find it familiar (but better).
The number one selling feature today, is the speed of the thing. I sat in a conference call today (I was in Finland, the others were in Toronto) sending Kik messages (Kiking?) to some of the guys in the meeting, and they were getting messages literally within 1 second of my sending them. I've seen SMS take from anywhere between 5 seconds to 5 hours, within local regions as well as overseas. And when you're roaming with SMS, then it's entirely hit-or-miss whether someone will get your SMS at all, depending on carrier roaming agreements. And don't even get me started on Skype... delivering messages sometimes WEEKS after the fact.
Cost wise, Kik uses your data contract and sips what I haven't proven, but would imagine to be a very small amount of data. Obviously if you've got wireless on your phone you can use that too. For me Kik is essentially free, and SMS still sucks, costing me something like 7 cents, with multimedia messages costing more.
Speaking of, Kik recently added the ability to send photos, and it's just as simple and fast as the messaging component is. In the middle of your chat, you can take a photo from your phone, and send it as part of the chat. Instantly. I asked Ted the other week "How the eff do you make it so fast?" His response: "Skills". And skills his team certainly has. The UI is beautiful and simple, and new features are coming monthly at least. For SXSW they set up a Kik account to help anyone find anything at all. That's right... Kik's staff were sitting in Austin helping direct people to anything at all, via Kik Messenger.
What else... Kik is rocking group chat too, which works so much like a human conversation it's uncanny.
I admit that I didn't really get Kik the first time I tried it, it just seemed like another chat application, of which I already have too many... but when I started to think "I could send someone a Kik rather than a text message... for free... and far more reliably" then I really began to see it's potential. And the user base has been exploding. In January I was struggling to find friends using it, today I'm getting friend requests from folks all the time. My company president and his wife have already been on Kik for a month :)
Judging from the earlier incarnations of the Kik application, I have no doubt that they've got a lot of other sweet functionality in the pipe. I kind of hate to say it, but I believe Kik genuinely has game-changer potential. Skype (and plenty of others) could do very well to keep an acquisitional eye on Kik.
As to things I'd like to see personally, have a think about these, Ted:
- Kik to Tweet, so you could publish selective chat messages directly to Twitter (think of sending a Tweet via SMS).
- Quoting someone directly from Kik out to Twitter, Facebook, etc. Kind-of like social scraping from your conversations.
- Out-of-office handling. Kik requires data, and if I'm travelling abroad and not roaming with data, then I'd like the ability to notify people that I won't be responding. Handle that by offering to send Kik messages via email... and even potentially forward-on those Kik messages via SMS.
- Potentially a desktop app. You'd need to think hard about this, maybe wait till you have more features on-board (you don't to piss people off by letting them compare Kik to Skype and Kik coming up short in other areas), but I think there'd definitely be use for this.
And congrats on the funding, buddy!