After expanding to 100 million users and sharing 150 million of its HTML5-powered Cards, small apps and games that run in a webview within Kik, the company is going that one crucial step further by adding an actual browser within the app.
Today it is announcing a major update to its iOS and Android apps, which are now becoming messaging apps with built-in Web browsers. A move that is aimed to boost engagement among users — many of whom are youngsters, and 50 million of whom are based in the US. The new release includes an URL and search bar that members can use to visit any Web site while inside the messaging app.
“We’re going to be the first smartphone messenger with a built-in browser, and that’s really exciting for us because now the pitch to developers is much more clear,” explained CEO and founder Ted Livingston in an interview. “Before, it was like ‘Hey Soundcloud [for instance], you should build a Kik card and submit it to us and we’ll make a decision.’ Now it’s like ‘Hey Soundcloud you’re already on Kik.”
Kik is also offering developers tool kits to optimize their sites for Kik by adding a few lines of code to make their site look even better and be even easier to use. If developers choose to optimize, their app will show up first in a special “optimized for Kik” list. Livingston hints that he sees promoted or sponsored listings as an opportunity for revenue down the line.
In addition to opening the door to potentially the entire Web, the updated app will also give Kik its clearest opportunity to make money to date. Kik has raised $27.5 million and — aside from launching stickers, some of which are paid for, last year — it has focused on building its product and userbase rather than revenue.
Kik is doing well in terms of signing up new users, with 100 million announced on the platform before the holidays. Livingston isn’t sharing new figures yet, but he says that they had an “amazing holiday season,” and notes the app climbed to number nine on the free app charts on iOS in the U.S., and number 10 in Google Play as well, and the only other private company to break the top ten on either platform during the period besides Kik was Snapchat.
Kik’s audience is growing by 275,000 new people per day and the company claims to be all the rage with US teens, which means the service’s pitch to developers could be a rather compelling one.
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