Ina Fried

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Kicked to the Curb by RIM, Messaging Start-Up Gets Last Laugh Amid Outage

While many BlackBerry services were down on Tuesday, one messaging platform was coming back to life.

Kik — which, like Research In Motion, is based in Waterloo, Canada — got its start on the BlackBerry but had been missing for months after RIM pulled its service. A month after pulling Kik’s app from its store, RIM sued the company.

The 20-person company has put its focus on other smartphone platforms, and now has about five million registered users sending more than 300 million messages a month.

Although Kik has seen plenty of growth from Android and iPhone users, the company wanted to restore service for BlackBerry customers and has been working for the past several months to make that happen. At around noon on Wednesday, Kik relaunched for the BlackBerry — just as RIM’s outage spread to North America. But because it was redesigned to not use any of the BlackBerry infrastructure, Kik remained functional even as many services stayed down.

“It’s so ironic,” said Kik CEO Ted Livingston.

Even though Kik remains embroiled in litigation, Livingston said he isn’t rooting for RIM to fail.

“I’m not enjoying it,” Livingston said of RIM’s troubles. “We’re in Waterloo, and RIM is a pretty important company to Waterloo and Canada.”

Indeed, Livingston himself is a BlackBerry user.

“It’s personally affecting me,” he said. “I can’t get work done.”

Livingston spent much of Wednesday shuttling back to his desk to check email, since he wasn’t getting any on his mobile device. By Wednesday evening, though, he had email up and running on an iPhone.

And that, of course, is the big danger for RIM — that longtime customers might use the outage as an opportunity to switch.

For his part, Livingston said he isn’t sure whether the BlackBerry will remain an important part of his business.

“We are not sure how important it is going to be, long-term, to support BlackBerry, but we had a lot of people request it and so we thought it was important to get back on the platform.”


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik