Kik's growth triggered by questionable methods - CEO apologizes, but why only now?

by Knowlton Thomas | Startups

It took less than two weeks for cross-platform chat app Kik, a startup based in Waterloo, to break the one-million-user milestone. Launched on October 21, two million users will probably happen... today.

It's an impressive app, but the explosive out-of-the-gate user growth isn't due entirely to the product itself - Kik CEO Ted Livingston has confessed to using questionable methods to gather new members.

In an interview with GigaOM's Matthew Ingram, Ted exploited a trick some would label "email harvesting." From Matthew's article:

When you sign up for the service on your iPhone or BlackBerry, it automatically ingests your contacts from the device and then cross-references that against the Kik user database. It doesn’t ask you first, which is a privacy faux pas. Kik users are then pinged by the service with messages saying “You may know…,” with the user name of someone who matches a name in their contact list. Livingston stressed in an interview with me that the service doesn’t auto-add anyone, and doesn’t store any of the information, but only uses it once and then discards it. But the feature has still made some people nervous — and is probably against Apple’s terms of service.

“We really just wanted to make it as easy as possible for users to get started, and to find people they might know,” the Kik co-founder told Matthew. “We feel really, really bad ... and we have apologized across the Internet for doing that. “We have a fix ready for upload, just as soon as Apple approves it, that will allow people to opt out of that feature. It will be crystal clear.”

Kik Interactive, Inc.
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Kik was founded in 2009, when a small but incredibly passionate group of University of Waterloo students decided to build a company that would shift the center of computing from the PC to the smartphone. Fast forward to today, and Kik has become the best way to connect with friends, no matter where you meet them. And unlike other messengers, Kik uses usernames - not phone numbers - as the basis... more

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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes and author of Tempest Bound. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys hiking, tennis, and martial arts. more

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