A 23-year-old University of Waterloo dropout has created a new smartphone text messaging application that has already attracted over two million users world wide in the first three weeks of availability.
This Canadian technological rags-to-riches story had a rosy glow until RIM, the creators of Blackberry, "temporarily suspended" Kik's application from Blackberry phones, said a release from Kik. RIM's move to block Kik came out of nowhere Monday, and no explicit explanation has been provided. Kik downplayed the block in in a blog post saying "Hey Kiksters – the dizzying pace of growth has caught up with us – again. The flood of new Kik users has placed an overwhelming strain on system resources, so new downloads of Kik Messenger for BlackBerry® devices have been temporarily suspended."
The very popular application - which has gone viral since its release just weeks ago - offers free real-time cross-platform text messaging for smartphones such as iPhone and Android, is still available for those phones. Kik promotes the application saying, "Get Kik Messenger for free and enjoy unlimited texting to all Kik users worldwide, no matter what type of smartphone they're into. That's the insanely fast, unifying power of Kik."
When Kik Messenger gained 150,000 members on November 2, the company issued a press release to celebrate its viral success. "Usage peaked at one million messages per hour," said the release. Livingston was pleased, saying "The sudden surge in Kik's popularity is driving what may be the fastest-ever growth of any mobile app. We're both thrilled and overwhelmed by the continuing rush of new users."
RIM, which offers its own instant messenging for users, had initially made Kik available to Blackberry users. The Globe & Mail reported the viral acceptance and use of the messenging application threatened to overwhelm servers, causing Kik to work feverishly to shore up server capacity. Even with the backup, RIM still is not relenting on its block of the application, causing speculation to abound in the tech blogosphere.
Geektown reviewed Kik last week, and noted Kik has competition from other instant messenging applications, such as "WhatsApp and PingChat." The difference between Kik and the competition, said Geektown, is that Kik, just like Blackberry, provides notifications about sent texts by giving "sent, delivered and received receipts."
Livingston credits a program at the University of Waterloo for boosting his entrepreneurial venture. Kik originally started with an application Livingston called "Unsynced," which started life as a music downloading application. Unsynced was rebranded as Kik, and relaunched at the end of October as Kik Messenging.
Livingston's vision for Kik starts with the message application as "... the foundation for the unfolding Kik community, which will also include music, pictures and video." Kik has attracted major interest from tech firms in the US reported the Montreal Gazette.
It is not known what impact the sudden impasse with Blackberry might have for Kik. The main rumour floating around the blogosphere is that RIM blocked the application over "customer concerns." Other blogs, like IntoMobile speculate RIM is trying to protect its market share by blocking the app.
Will these rumours be enough to slow down Kik's meteoric rise, or will the 'any press is good press' premise catapult Kik into a new stratosphere? Only time will tell.