Kik is one of the few remaining “independent” messengers. While that is not technically true — there are many, many others, from Telegram to Nimbuzz to imo.im not owned by larger companies — Kik is the only one with more than 100 million users not recently acquired.
In the last two years, we’ve seen BBM come to Android and iOS, WhatsApp sold to Facebook for $19 billion, Viber handed to Rakuten for $900 million, WeChat and LINE become product merchants, and Kakao merge with Korean internet portal Daum. Kik, now with 120 million users, has remained not only independent but located in Waterloo, next to the setting shadow of BlackBerry.
In a blog post this week, Kik’s founder and CEO, Ted Livingston, decried the notion of selling to a bigger company.
“Once again, people are telling us to get out at the top. That now is the time to sell. But once again, we believe the opportunity is just so much bigger. We want to be the network that connects the world, and the platform that enables all communication, content, and commerce to flow through it. Not just a chat app, but a chat network. So, once again, we are choosing not to sell.”
Kik will have a difficult time of it. The company has doubled down on HTML5, a cross-platform web language that many have dismissed as unfinished and not performant. And in April, Alberta’s Internet Child Exploitation unit accused Kik of failing to adequately protect children, many of whom had been drawn in by automated spambots with lewd photographs. Kik responded by updating its iOS and Android apps to automatically blur out photos from new contacts until explicitly whitelisted, and increased the ease at which users can block or delete new contacts.
The company’s success hinges on whether it can overcome these issues and maintain its massive growth, which currently sits at nearly 300,000 new users every day.