Mehul Reuben DasDec 30, 2022 17:15:45 IST
2022 was not a great year for most social media platforms. Starting from Twitter and the entire takeover fiasco and the shenanigans of Elon Musk after he took charge, to the shocking tumble that Meta and all its platforms like Facebook and Instagram, took this year, most social media companies saw negative growth.
On the other hand, Koo, India’s very own social media platform saw unprecedented growth. Not only did they launch in a bunch of new languages and markets, this year also saw Koo cross 50 million users. Hitting that sort of milestone within just two years of being launched, is a huge deal; not many social media platforms can boast of such an achievement.
Things haven’t been exactly easy for the platform, and yet, Koo seems to be on an upwards trajectory. We had a chat with Mayank Bidawatka, Co-founder of Koo and asked him where he sees the second largest micro-blogging platform in the world go in 2023. Following are the edited excerpts from our conversation:
How was 2022 for social media companies? How is it that Koo fared better than almost all other social media platforms?
I think one word to define the year for social platforms in 2022 is “turmoil”. There have been many developments that users have dunked. Broadly you’ll see new ownership followed by aggressive unpopular policies and changes at Twitter and mass layoffs at Meta. There’s competitive pressure from TikTok and talks of it being banned in the US. Meanwhile, Koo is spreading its wings and will continue to do so.
A lot of these changes show us that it doesn’t take long for the chips to fall and for the mighty to tumble in the tech world. It also shows how resilient network effects can be where no matter how bad your decisions are, a strong community network is not easy to disrupt. I think this has been a period of soul-searching for many employees at these companies and also for users of such platforms on what’s right and wrong.
Meta faced competitive pressures from TikTok affecting revenues and Twitter faces a huge debt burden leading to them wanting to charge users for basic services.
Clearly, users don’t want to pay for basic services like a verification tick and edit functionality that platforms like Koo will offer for free. Platforms will realize that stability in policies, transparency, neutrality and giving users control is the best way to run a public social platform. The power of choice needs to be given back to the users and platforms should just be enablers and exercise control in exceptions for dispute resolution. The more the platforms play this role, with a strong focus on user happiness, the better our online experience will be.
How has the reception been for Koo in international markets?
We have just about started our global expansion journey. We have started with Brazil. Koo is a cult brand there with high awareness, huge adoption in a very short span and a lot of love for the brand and what we stand for.
We will keep expanding to multiple countries from here on. We have launched many new global languages and this too will keep expanding to accommodate more languages in due time. Koo is now available in over 20 languages including English, French, German, Italian, Indonesian, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Turkish and Hindi with users from 100+ countries.
What users love about Koo is the fact that it’s a friendly, approachable and non-toxic platform.
Which of Koo’s features has been a massive favourite among users? What additional features can we hope to see Koo integrate into the platform?
Koo’s vision is to unite a world divided by languages. We have enabled users to create posts in multiple languages on one screen thus, helping them get a read around the world. No social platform has this capability. Many eminent personalities and users around the world create their posts in multiple languages.
Dalai Lama is a good example of this. You will see that he’s a lot more active on Koo and creates posts in English, Portuguese, Hindi and Spanish. You won’t see this behaviour from him on any other platform. That’s really what we stand for.
Apart from this, we have multiple features like the option to edit Koos, free self-verification which gets approved within 15 seconds, multiple profile photos, allowing 10+ media attachments, support for longer videos, the option of saving a Koo, scheduling a Koo, saving drafts.
We also recently launched a migration option for users to import their tweets and find their Twitter followers on Koo, eliminating the need to start from ground zero.
Koo is a feature-rich platform and we will keep adding many new features in the near future such as Favoriting a profile to see their posts on priority, Stories, Toxic/Hate speech feedback to commenters, enabling creators to pin their favourite comments, detailed analytics for creators etc.
We will update the community as and when these go live. Broadly we want to give the power and control to users and creators to create a world they want to live in. Koo is one of the most friendly social platforms out there and people love the fact that it’s non-toxic. We will keep enabling the community to connect better in a safe environment while they make new friends and strengthen their social graph.
Twitter has been disastrous because of its conduct with over half of its users. How are other social media platforms capitalizing on this, and how does Koo plan to leverage its position?
Many users are looking for alternatives aggressively. We just have to increase awareness about our platform in multiple countries. We already provide for free all the tools that users will be charged for on Twitter.
We’ve also made it easy for users to migrate by importing their Tweets and finding their Twitter following on Koo, eliminating the need to start from ground zero. Our proposition resonates with users that adopt us. They love how friendly and transparent we are as a platform.
Content moderation on social media has been a hot topic for some time now. Should platforms be allowed to moderate content on their own, or should they be under government oversight? Or, will an independent body chosen for this task, truly be independent and actually functional?
Many governments around the world have policies around ways social platforms should deal with content moderation. It’s important for all platforms to respect local laws and cultures, as we do. In addition to these guidelines, we have our own community guidelines to ensure that Koo is a safe space.
We are an extremely user-focused platform and ensure that everything that’s good for the user is done. What people want is a safe environment in which their thoughts and relationships can thrive. They want to feel enriched and happy after using a platform. That’s what we endeavour to deliver.
Elon Musk and Twitter recently suspended the accounts of a few users for sharing links to their social media profiles on other platforms, before undoing it. Were those bans a good idea, and what do you infer about Musk overlooking a social media platform based on the episode?
Social media platforms are known to give a stage to billions of voices. It is imperative to adopt a user-first approach rather than a platform-first. Any moves or changes done in the platform should not impede self-expression.
We feel that some decisions being taken at Twitter are going against some philosophies we hold in high regard. Users should have the freedom to discuss anything without restrictions, within agreed-upon community guidelines. Even if it’s against the platform itself. That’s the true test of a platform’s belief in free speech.
In what direction will we see the platform go in 2023?
Koo will keep giving power to the people in the form of features, tools, new languages, and more controls and choices. We will continue our global outreach and expansion to make India’s tech shine and be celebrated in multiple countries. We will work towards empowering creators with insights, tools and monetization capabilities and help users discover and connect with their favourite content creators easily. 2023 will be a monumental year for Koo.