[Well, I know this is quite annoying for western startups. Before you read through this post, just want to make it clear, the reason of writing this is neither to encourage people doing this, nor I feel proud of the market here which can copy the idea so quick. Anyhow, it’s the trend in China web and we should not ignore it.]

If we set up an award, what’s the most-copied foreign web service in 2010 in China, Groupon and Foursquare will be the top 2 with no doubt. Groupon created the new hype of group buying in China, and Foursquare educated us: LBS could be fun. Chinese new year is coming very soon, and so what’s the next ‘lucky’ service or idea got copied? I think it would be the Kik messenger and actually it’s already happening.

Just a little background information about Kit if you are not familiar with it. Kik messenger, on its site, it describe itself as a free real-teim texting application,

Kik Messenger tells you when a message has been sent, delivered, read, and even when someone is typing back, turning regular texting into real-time conversations.

Kik grows super fast. To reach 1million users, Twitter took 2 years, Foursquare took 1 year; and Facebook took 9 months; But for Kik messenger, it only took 15 days. And last week, it reached 3millions users. One key feature helps Kik going viral is that, it can scan your phone address book and tell you who are already on Kik and the rest can be easily invited. It will send you push message once your contact login the service.

In China, there are a few applications like Kik already in the market, and the following are the most active/promising one at this moment:

Shanda Kiki – Kiki is incubated by Shanda and now opens for private test.

Xiaomi’s Miliao – It’s developed by Xiaomi which we have covered for a couple of times recently. It now supports iPhone and Android.

Youxin – It’s launched at 1st January 2011. In an interview with Youxin’s founder (in Chinese), he said the idea was to develop an easy way to share video-clip among phone contacts. Now it provids similar real-time communication functions like Kik, but more than that, users can use it to share audio-clip, images, documents etc easily. It now supports iPhone and Android.

Gexin – it allows users to send text and multimedia message for free. It is available on Android2.0, S60 (V3 V5), Kjava, Windows Mobile

Suliao – developed by the social network 51taonan.com for speed dating. It is available on Android、Symbian、Windows mobile.

There are some others in stealth mode we have heard. So it’s the area you definitely need pay some attention on it in 2011. But I have to say, for startups, playing with Kik messenger’s concept is also highly risky.

  1. Threat from network operators, such as China Mobile. Note that China Mobile’s service Fetion, the free mobile IM service is very popular.
  2. Threat from big Internet guys, such as social networks (Renren), popular mobile service (UC.cn), Tencent etc; developing a Kik is easy and they have a huge userbase on mobile service already;
  3. Privacy issue. Kik is scanning your phone contact list, we know it and most of us trust it. But in China, if services scan our contact list even for good reason, people will soon complain on it. Well, there are too many dodgy clients here so that we can not trust anyone (thinking about QQ vs. 360). So how to get your users trust you is a big question.

We need some very simple services like Kik to ease the communication with our phone contacts. There is market need for this, but for startups, think it over, the technology, market strategy, the target users etc before you rush in.