App of the Week: Koo – A worthy Twitter alternative? (Feb 12-18, 2021)

Twitter is undoubtedly one of the most popular social media platforms out there. And rightly so, it gives everyone a stage and enables them to share their point of view. So, when I saw an Indian alternative to the platform,Β ‘#Kooapp’ trending with hundreds and thousands of tweets, of course, I was intrigued.

And that’s how Koo, India’s “atmanirbhar” (self-reliant) microblogging platform came to be my pick for Appy Week with AK. So, what’s the verdict of Koo? Does it manage to cuckoo or skip the beat all together? Scroll down for all the answers.

Note: The review is purely from the perspective of an app review. No political or regional views are taken into account.

Koo app: A micro-blogging platform for Indian regional languages

What makes Koo stand out is that it enables Indians to have their say or participate in their mother tongue and other languages. As of now, it supports English, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu.

Supported languages in Koo iPhone app

The support for Punjabi, Bangla, Oriya, Assamese, Gujarati, and Malayalam is on its way. While Twitter supports over 30 languages, the Indian ones are limited to Hindi, Bengali, and Urdu.

So, why is that important? With over 1 billion population and several natives residing worldwide, Indian languages are a huge lure. Imagine a platform where residents and NRIs (non-resident Indians) could interact in their mother tongue! But how well does it work?

How well does the ‘Koo’ bird fly?

Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka founded Koo in March 2020, and in August, it was one of the winners of the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge.’ While that’s a remarkable feat, I felt the app is still at its nascence.

UI and features

Koo is not just an alternative. It is an almost copy-paste of Twitter’s interface. Instead of blue, Koo boasts yellow accents.

Comparison between Koo and Twitter's interface

Primarily, the app has five main sections: Home, Trending Hashtags, Search, Notifications, Explore

Home, Trending Hashtags, and Search interface in Koo iPhone app

  • Upon opening the app, Β you are welcomed by the main page or the Feed’s page.
  • Here, you see all the Koos (tweets) made by people you follow.
  • You can like, comment, rekoo(retweet), and share the post on Facebook or WhatsApp. Comment section in Koo iPhone app
  • You can Koo (tweet) your opinion. Just tap +Koo at the bottom-right of the main page.
  • Unlike Twitter’s 280-character limit, Koo gives you 400 characters to express yourself.
  • You can use text, weblinks, videos & pictures, polls, and audio recording.Use Text,Β web links, videos & pictures and more in Koo iPhone app
  • Hashtags and tags are also part of the picture, quite similar to other social media.
  • From the main page, you can tap the People’s tab to see popular users.
    A good thing is they are divided under various categories to make things easier.People divided under Various categories in Koo iPhone app
  • Tap the trending icon at the page’s top-right to see Trending Koos of the past 24 hours.
  • Tap your profile picture to visit your profile; there is even a Like option to show you Koos, which you liked in the past.Show liked Koos in the past in Koo iPhone app

What I love is about the app is that it’s pretty simple to use. But unfortunately, that’s because of the app being a Twitter look-alike. And I did not enjoy that feeling. Where is the creativity or innovation in that?

But then, Koo is probably not developed for seasoned netizens. Their target audience is a two & three-tier market. And if you view it from that angle, the UI design is somewhat justified.

Is Koo just an Indian Parler?

Koo currently boasts 3 million+ users, and a large section of the user base is the ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) supporters.

And as much I don’t want to comment on the political aspect of the app, it is now on the right-wing of the political thought spectrum.

Is Koo Just An Indian Parler

Privacy

With great popularity comes a greater risk for privacy. And Koo has recently landed up in a data leak controversy. While co-founder Radhakrishna has vehemently denied this, Inc42’s investigation did found some faulty APIs.

However, the issue was fixed within hours of discovery. And while that promptness is a good sign, I don’t think the app’s privacy policy is on-point as of now.

Koo’s flight to popularity

In the past, many homegrown and international platforms have tried to conquer the Indian market. However, they could not stand against Twitter’s hegemony. So, what makes Koo a strong contender?

The simplest answer is support from the Indian government. Several government agencies in the likes of Ministry of Information Technology and Prasar Bharti have special accounts on the platform.

And according to a local newspaper report, the nations’ authorities might start sharing important updates and announcements on Koo first. And Twitter, Facebook, or other platforms will receive updates after 1-3 hours!

Which would attract everyone from journalists to businessmen across nations to use the app. And hence, this might be an alternative that works. But does it have the power to sustain? Could it be more than a Twitter alternative?

Well, the app is buggy! It hangs, logs you out randomly, etc. But then, it is barely a year old. So I try to look beyond the current app and judge its potential on what it could be if steered in the right direction.

The infinite sky Koo could offer

The endless sky Koo could offer

Tapping into the regional language market offers more than the emotional or socio-culture connection. Not every society segment has the language skill or means to gather the correct information from the internet.

But it does not mean that they are not your target audience. Thus, giants like Google and Apple are trying to make their virtual assistants speak every possible language fluently.

User point of view

  • Β Perks for Indian residents – Networking in your mother tongue! You can interact with your state’s leader or your family member in a language that you feel most comfortable with.
  • If you are a foreigner – Whether you have Indian lineage or not, anybody interested in Indian languages and cultures could benefit from the Koo app.

Marketers/PR point of view

If there is a public on a platform, brands will follow. And no matter the industry or marketing strategy, a regional touch could help you sell your products better. Especially small-scale industries or businesses, you can instantly form an emotional connection and build a loyal following.

Plus, if the government is making important announcements on the platform, you need to be on it to track policy changes and other news.

And while all of this sounds super amazing, Koo still has a long way to go. Furthermore, it will have to get rid of that ‘political agenda’ tag to enable national plus global attention.

Will AK coo over the Koo app?

Yes and No! While I am not happy with the app’s current performance, I see its potential. I did not enjoy Koo in its current avatar, but I would surely hang on and see what it could bring to the table.

Especially for India’s two & three-tier market of the country, they could have a great app in their hand if properly managed. And if for nothing else, I wish Koo success in democratizing the internet.

AK Meter (out of 5)

User interface: 🌝  🌝  🌝 🌜 (It’s a choppy copy)

Features: 🌝  🌝  🌝 🌜  (Nothing new or out of the box)

Communication experience: 🌝  🌝  🌝  (Couldn’t find like-minded people)

Fun quotient: 🌝  🌝  🌝  (Twitter is better)

Privacy: 🌝  🌝  🌝

Download Koo

What is Appy Week with AK?

Apps could make our life so much better! From finding an address to home deliveries, there is an excellent app for it all. And what I truly enjoy and love is looking into these apps and see how they work.

Here comes Appy Week with AK. I pick an app and test it thoroughly for a full week. Test all its features, what it promises vs. what it delivers, and share all of that with you guys, so you can find an app that suits your bill.

Join me on this journey, and feel free to share your views, comments, and queries in the comment section below. I will see you next week with another app; till then, enjoy these previous editions:

A self-professed Geek who loves to explore all things Apple. I thoroughly enjoy discovering new hacks, troubleshooting issues, and finding and reviewing the best products and apps currently available. My expertise also includes curating opinionated and honest editorials. If not this, you might find me surfing the web or listening to audiobooks.


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