Waterloo, Ontario’s Kik Interactive Inc. has announced the launch of its Bot Shop, opening the company’s platform to third-party developers, meaning that anyone can develop a bot that can operate on the Kik platform, which has more than 275 million registered users and claims to be used by approximately 40% of U.S. teens.
Developers can start making bots via Kik’s bot API, available at dev.kik.com.
“We want our users to have more fun and engaging experiences in Kik without having to leave the app,” said Ted Livingston, founder and CEO of Kik. “We’ve been innovating in chat in the last few years and have found that the best results come from low-friction experiences that don’t hurt the simplicity of chat. Bots deliver that.”
At the same time as the Bot Shop launch, Kik is releasing three new chat bots features: web bubbles (“wubbles”) for sharing rich media content in conversation threads; suggested responses to help expedite text input; and a mention feature that allows bots to participate in conversation threads involving multiple parties, including groups.
Sixteen bots, from Funny Or Die, H&M, J-14, Riffsy, Sephora, Vine, and The Weather Channel, are among those helping to launch Kik’s Bot Shop, which is split into three categories: entertainment, lifestyle, and games.
“When we built the Funny Or Die bot on Kik in 2014, we were able to focus on building a great experience for our fans without worrying about user acquisition, and within the first three months, we were chatting with 1.5 million Kik users,” said Patrick Starzan, head of marketing at Funny Or Die. “We’re looking forward to continuing to push the boundaries of chat as it becomes central to mobile computing.”
Three launch partners – imperson, Massively, and Sequel – will be tasked with helping developers and companies to build bots.
“With messaging apps like Kik, brands have an enormous opportunity to connect with their audiences that’s much more personal and engaging,” said Erez Baum, CEO of imperson. “We are delighted to be one of Kik’s early launch partners and we look forward to bringing unique chat personas for consumers to engage with brands over messaging.”
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Last December, Kik acquired Blynk, a Toronto-based mobile fashion app developer responsible for their personal fashion stylist called BlynkStyle, which became a chat bot on the Kik messaging app.
Kik was founded in 2009 by University of Waterloo graduate and ex-BlackBerry employee Ted Livingstone, which now has offices in Waterloo, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, building the company to a valuation of over $1 billion.
Kik was the result of Livingston’s attempt to convince Research in Motion to take BlackBerry Messenger cross-platform, a move that the now troubled company declined and probably now regrets, which prompted Livingstone to set out on his own.
Kik’s Bot Shop move is in keeping with trends by companies employing bots as a way of engaging users and allowing third-party companies and developers to automate interaction.
Last December, Slack introduced its Botkit, developed by Howdy, a framework for Slack app development.
Last August, Kik closed a $50 million Series D funding round, led by Tencent, developers of the Weixin (WeChat) Chinese messaging app.