What happened to Kik?

  • Kik Messenger, more affectionately known as Kik, is an instant messaging app that was developed by Canadian students at the University of Waterloo.
  • Kik ultimately failed because it could not properly monetize the user base which mostly consisted of children and teenagers. An effort to raise money via an IOC attracted the attention of the SEC which precipitated a lengthy and costly court battle.
  • Kik was acquired by holding the company MediaLab in 2019, leaving co-founder Ted Livingston to focus on his other ventures. MediaLab invested little in innovative features and today, Telegram and WhatsApp are far more popular.
Founding and Early SuccessKik Interactive, a Canadian company, launched the Kik messaging app in October 2010. Kik gained rapid popularity, particularly among teenagers, for its simple and anonymous messaging features. It allowed users to send text messages, images, videos, and other content without requiring a phone number, emphasizing user privacy and anonymity. Kik’s user base quickly grew, and it became one of the leading messaging apps in North America.
Monetization and Bot PlatformKik explored various monetization strategies, including introducing in-app purchases, digital stickers, and promoted chats. One significant innovation was the introduction of the Kik Bot Platform in 2014, allowing developers to create chatbots and interactive experiences within the app. This move aimed to engage users and generate revenue through partnerships and advertising opportunities.
Legal Challenges and ConcernsKik faced legal challenges related to its initial coin offering (ICO) for its cryptocurrency called “Kin” in 2017. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleged that the ICO violated securities laws, leading to a legal battle between Kik and the SEC. This legal dispute created uncertainty around the company’s future and raised concerns about regulatory compliance in the cryptocurrency space.
Decision to Shut DownIn September 2019, Kik Interactive announced that it would shut down the Kik messaging app to focus on its cryptocurrency project, Kin. The company cited the ongoing legal battle with the SEC as a significant factor in this decision. Kik intended to pivot toward the development and promotion of the Kin cryptocurrency, which it believed had greater potential for growth and innovation.
Continued Development of KinFollowing the shutdown of the Kik app, Kik Interactive continued to work on the Kin cryptocurrency and its ecosystem. The company aimed to integrate Kin into various digital services and apps to incentivize user engagement and reward content creators. Kik Interactive rebranded as “Kin Ecosystem” to align with its focus on cryptocurrency development.
Challenges and Evolving LandscapeThe Kin cryptocurrency project faced its own set of challenges, including regulatory scrutiny and changing market conditions. Despite efforts to build a decentralized ecosystem around Kin, it faced competition from other cryptocurrencies and decentralized finance (DeFi) projects. The broader cryptocurrency landscape continued to evolve, impacting Kin’s place within it.
Impact on Users and Messaging SpaceThe shutdown of Kik had an impact on its user base, many of whom had to migrate to alternative messaging apps. The messaging space continued to be highly competitive, with apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat dominating the market. Kik’s exit highlighted the challenges faced by messaging apps, including maintaining user engagement and staying relevant.

History of Kik Messenger

Kik Messenger, more affectionately known as Kik, is an instant messaging app that was developed by Canadian students at the University of Waterloo.

Kik was launched on October 19, 2010, and reached 1 million users 15 days later.

The app then reached 200 million users in early 2015 with the company earning a billion-dollar valuation a few months later.

Despite hundreds of millions of users and several successful rounds of investment funding, co-founder Ted Livingston announced in 2019 that Kik would be shut down.

The decision was ultimately reversed, but a holding company acquired Kik and, in the past few years, has faded into relative obscurity.

The story of Kik and its various missteps is told in the following sections.

Anonymity issues

While enormously popular, Kik has endured multiple controversies since it was launched because of its anonymity features.

Users could easily sign up without providing their phone numbers, which made Kik unique among its peers.

As a result, the app became a haven for users with nefarious intentions, with a 2018 BBC report claiming Kik had been involved in over 1,100 child abuse cases.

To make matters worse, the company was known for not cooperating with law enforcement when information was requested to identify offenders.

Illegal token issuance

Amidst ongoing controversy over the safety of its users, Livingston decided to launch a coin under the name of Kin.

In early 2017, ICOs were all the rage, with companies sometimes raising hundreds of million of dollars.

The ICO, which raised close to $100 million, was completed in August 2017.

But difficulties arose when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) claimed Kik’s ICO was illegal because it constituted the sale of unregistered securities.

Kik denied the allegations, noting that its IOC was a token sale and that consumers purchased the tokens for their utility and not as a speculative investment.

Irrespective of which party was correct, the case dragged on for years and nearly bankrupted Kik.

Over $10 million was spent on legal fees, eventually forcing Livingston to announce in September 2019 that he would terminate 80% of his workforce.

Media Labs acquisition

Fortunately for his employees, this decision was reversed after Livingston tweeted that he had found a buyer for his platform.

The buyer was MediaLab, a holding company that was looking to expand its mobile app portfolio. 

An exact price was never disclosed, but the sale of Kik’s messenger service freed up Livingstone to focus on his battle with the SEC and his cryptocurrency initiatives.

SEC settlement

Kik and the SEC eventually settled their case without going to trial for $5 million. Importantly, Kik would be allowed to keep what was left of its $100 million ICO.

Meanwhile, under the direction of MediaLab, the core messenger app was updated when required but lacked any new, innovative features that would create a buzz and maintain or increase user interest.

Business model pivots and monetization

One of the platform’s earlier points of difference was the use of chatbots, which could be accessed in Kik’s Bot Shop and used to play games or interact with other companies.

The company invested heavily in chatbots, and while they were useful under certain circumstances, the chatbot revolution never really came to fruition.

Livingston then decided to start a new company for his ICO while dealing with the SEC and the constant problems associated with the unsafe app.

His propensity to experiment with different business models was understandable because messaging apps are difficult to monetize – a fact compounded by Kik’s mostly under 18 user base.

However, it could also be argued that these constant shifts diluted his focus to the point where it was detrimental to the platform.

Kik remains relatively popular today, but it pales in comparison to competitor services such as Telegram and WhatsApp. 

Key Highlights:

  • Kik Messenger, an instant messaging app developed by Canadian students, became enormously popular and reached 1 million users within 15 days of its launch.
  • The app’s anonymity features allowed users to sign up without providing phone numbers, leading to controversies and misuse, including involvement in over 1,100 child abuse cases.
  • In 2017, Kik launched an ICO for its coin called Kin, raising close to $100 million. The SEC later claimed the ICO was illegal, leading to a lengthy and costly legal battle.
  • Kik was acquired by holding company MediaLab in 2019, and under its direction, the app lacked innovative features to maintain or increase user interest.
  • Kik faced challenges in monetizing its user base, which mostly consisted of children and teenagers. Constant shifts in the business model and experiments with different strategies may have diluted the platform’s focus.
  • Despite remaining relatively popular, Kik lost its prominence compared to competitors like Telegram and WhatsApp.

Read Next: How Does Telegram Make Money, The History of WhatsApp, How Does WhatsApp Make Money.

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