2017 is a booming year for cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is an attractive, if risky, investment. Altcoins are fulfilling the dreams of day traders across the globe. And everyone wants a piece of the cryptocurrency action.
That’s because cryptocurrency is here to stay, despite what you might read elsewhere. Digitized, decentralized currency makes certain online activities much easier. Furthermore, many people relate to the focus on privacy some cryptocurrencies offer.
One company is attempting to bring cryptocurrency to young people. Popular social media network, Kik, is launching its own cryptocurrency, Kin.
Here’s what it means for you and your teenagers.
Kik and Anonymity
Kik claims to have over 300 million registered users, of which there are 15 million active monthly users.
But the key statistic for Kik isn’t the number of users: it is the demographics of those users. Estimates put the number of U.S. teenagers using Kik between 30 and 40 percent — and the number is rising, too. Some 57 percent of the active user base comprises the 13-to-24-years-old bracket.
Kik appeals directly to teenagers for a few reasons, but the most important is its anonymity. You can register for Kik using a fake email address, a fake name, and birthdate showing an age over 13. Select your username, and you’re good to go. Kik doesn’t require a cell phone number, tying your identity to a single device.
In addition, Kik cannot (or refuses too) locate accounts using just a first and last name. The Kik Guide for Law Enforcement states that a “Kik username is the only unique identifier in our system, and the only way we can identify a unique Kik account.” In addition, data is only held for 90 days, unless someone makes a legitimate request to hold the data for longer.
In a boon to parents, Kik doesn’t work well with many parental control apps. Where parents have requested remote device viewing to check in on their teenagers, Kik obscures all messages.
Kik Points and Cryptocurrency
One major challenge each social media network faces is monetization. How can you monetize a platform that users freely enjoy taking advantage of? Kik has long had advertisements. But during 2016, it took a gamble on the introduction of an internal virtual currency, called Kik Points. To earn points, the user had to watch or view a small targeted advert, or play a branded game. Users spent their accumulated points on special emojis and stickers, unique to the Kik platform.
The success of Kik Points seems to have spurred Kik onto greater things. So much so that in early 2017, they announced the development of a new cryptocurrency: Kin.
“If we can make this work, we can build one of the largest, most adopted cryptocurrencies in the world, just by integrating this into Kik, and putting Kik Points on the blockchain.”
Kik envisages Kin as a general-purpose cryptocurrency. They would like to make Kin as ubiquitous as sending USD through PayPal. As we’ve seen with other cryptocurrencies, that is easier said than done. Even though the top ten cryptocurrencies have a market capitalization of nearly $100 billion, easy-to-use day-to-day services that accept crypto are few and far between.
Kin could make a serious difference. Being integrated into the Kik platform, with its millions of users, will see a sharp uptake in consumer adoption. Furthermore, teenagers can drive trends. If the native support for Kin encourages more teens to use Kik, you can guarantee parents will follow suit.
How Will Kin Work?
Kin has a broad mission statement, but focuses around one central theme: creating a sustainable decentralized “alternative ecosystem of digital services for our daily lives.”
In other words, Kik wants to nurture a system of digital services that use Kin as its main currency. Furthermore, Kik users will be able to send Kin to one another, much the same as other currencies (using other payment apps). Kik, in conjunction with the overseeing Kin Foundation, plans to release small amounts of Kin to the public at certain (as yet unspecified) times.
The majority of the Kin cryptocurrency will be held in reserve for the Kin Rewards Engine. The Kin Rewards Engine is a core ecosystem concept. Business and other digital services using the Kin Ecosystem will receive periodic rewards for their support. The incentives will assist with the rapid development and expansion of the cryptocurrency, in turn adding value. The proportion of Kin distributed to services will relate to their utilization of the cryptocurrency.
How Will Your Teenager Use Kin?
The introduction of a cryptocurrency essentially marketed toward teenagers is interesting. The Kin initial coin offering (ICO — an initial product sale for cryptocurrencies) attracted a significant amount of interest (98 million dollars of it). But this was because crypto-enthusiasts sense an opportunity for short-term profits once Kin hits cryptocurrency exchanges.
The real question is what purpose does this serve the teenagers and young adults meant to use it? Well, Kik envisages Kin as the monetization method of choice for popular Kik users. Celebrities can create exclusive VIP hangouts, using Kin as the payment entry method. In addition, popular accounts can accept Kin in return for a far-reaching product shout-out, or a single message can be pinned to the top of a chat for a certain amount of time.
Another key early use concept is service payment and tipping. Kik is already jampacked with bots, with over 150,000 active bots providing a huge range of services. Kin can replace traditional fiat currency in these transactions, as well as being sent as a tip, too.
Will Your Teenager Be Safe?
Privacy and anonymity are synonymous with Kik. And a cryptocurrency only adds to the appeal. However, there could be problems ahead. While simplifying cryptocurrency for the masses will undoubtedly increase usage, the price of Kin will still be tied to fiat currency. Furthermore, as Kik want to list Kin on public cryptocurrency exchanges, its value will further fluctuate.
If parents, teenagers, and young adults aren’t careful, money will simply vanish without a trace. Cryptocurrency has a limited real-world application, and explaining blockchain technology is difficult. Kik will distance the technical aspects of cryptocurrency from the Kin Ecosystem, but that doesn’t make it disappear.
Another consideration is the direct link to Kik Points. Kik Points were essentially a novelty currency, used to purchase stickers. Kin is an Ethereum-based cryptocurrency, with real value, and fees for transaction processing. Marketing Kin as an exciting new payment method for teenagers is one thing, but I think it will have unintended consequences.
One consequence relates to the well-noted dark side to Kik, where some teenagers and young adults are blackmailed into performing unsavory acts. An anonymous decentralized cryptocurrency integrated directly with the Kik platform might play directly into the hands of abusive individuals.
Kin Is Coming
Whatever we think, Kin is coming to Kik, and potentially a smartphone near you. If you have teenagers that frequent the Kik platform, it is worth sitting them down and talking about Kin when it arrives.
Kin has the potential to create a dedicated ecosystem that serves the majority of its users well, with excellent services, chatbots, and more. But as with any new technology, it will be open to abuse, especially during the early teething period.
Will you start using Kin when it arrives? Will you let your teenager use it? Or is it best to stick to “real world” currency? Let us know your thoughts below!