NEW DELHI: Home-grown social media app Koo is witnessing a surge in popularity with top politicians and others are flocking to it. The app started trending after the Centre rebuked Twitter on Wednesday for not complying with its orders to take down certain content and warned the social media giant that it needs to obey Indian laws.
Twitter, in a blogpost, said it has not blocked accounts consisting of “news media entities, journalists, activists and politicians” as doing so “would violate their fundamental right to free expression” guaranteed under the country’s law.
The government, however, termed as “unusual” Twitter’s move to publish the blogpost before a slated talks with the IT secretary on the issue, as sought by the US company.
“Upon the request of Twitter seeking a meeting with the government, the Secretary IT was to engage with senior management of Twitter. In this light, a blog post published prior to this engagement is unusual,” IT ministry said in its response on Koo, a homegrown social networking platform.
The government will share its response soon, the post on Koo said. Koo is being touted as the homegrown contender to Twitter.
What is Koo
Koo is a Twitter-like micro-blogging platform which allows users to post multimedia content, including audio clips. A text post is restricted to 400 characters and the service supports six Indian languages, including English.
Like Twitter, Koo’s logo is a bird, though yellow in colour. It allows users to use hashtags (#) or the “@” symbol for mentions. The app also allows users to ‘re-koo’, Koo’s version of a retweet and chat instead of a direct message.
When it was launched
Koo was founded by Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka, both MBA, or business management, graduates. The duo are also the founders of Vokal, an audio-video knowledge-sharing platform similar to Quora.
The app was launched in March 2020, and won an government award for driving tech innovation. It raised more than $4 million in funding last week from new and existing investors including venture capital firms Accel and 3one4 Capital.
For years, Twitter has been a major public communication tool for the government. But several ministries and high-profile figures, including Bollywood actors, have also gradually begun using Koo in recent months. The technology ministry and trade minister Piyush Goyal joined this month.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is yet to join Koo, spoke about the app last year in his monthly radio address. “It’s called Koo,” he said. “In this, we can place our opinion and interact in our mother tongue through text, video or audio.”
How to download Koo
Koo is a free app available on both Android and iOS platforms.
The app is named “Koo: Connect with Indians in Indian Languages” on Google Play. It is named “Koo: Connect with Top Indians” on the App Store with Bombinate Technologies Pvt Ltd as the provider.
What its founders say
The sudden increase in Koo’s popularity can be compared in some respects to the surge in the use of digital payments apps in India following a ban on high-value currency notes in late 2016, Koo’s co-founder Bidawatka told news agency Reuters.
“You could say this is something similar, because a certain event happened and lot of people want to move here… There is a surge at an unexpected time and lots of people are talking about us.”
Koo’s co-founder and CEO Radhakrishna told TOI he is beefing up Koo’s infrastructure and tripling its engineering workforce to be able to host more top-notch names, including the likes of PM Narendra Modi, if he joins.
Koo said downloads have surged 10-fold over the past few days. It continued to see an unprecedented spike of 10-20x growth in new users, compared to a normal day, following Twitter’s refusal to remove certain Indian accounts and posts, according to Radhakrishna.
(With inputs from Reuters)