Many Union Ministers have announced that they have signed up to Koo, the Desi version of Twitter which includes Indian languages as well. Those in the government, as well as ministries, are starting to use Koo after Twitter came under fire for not complying with government directives (Twitter, on its part, has said it has suspended over 500 accounts, but has said it won’t take down news media, journalists, activists or politicians accounts).
Koo was started 10 months ago, and has verified handles of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), MyGov, Digital India, India Post, National Informatics Centre (NIC), National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELIT), Common Services Center, UMANG app, Digi Locker, National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) and Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) on it. This is apart from Union Ministers such as Piyush Goyal and Ravi Shankar Prasad, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Dr Ashwath Narayan, Tejasvi Surya and others.
Koo was founded by former TaxiForSure founder Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka. Mayank, a former consultant with TaxiForSure, has been an investor in various companies, and previously founded Vokal India. Mayank was earlier one of the core team members of online bus ticketing platform Redbus. The app was one of the winners of the Atmanirbhar App Challenge by the Indian government, announced after several Chinese apps were banned by the government. According to Koo, it was also named by Google as PlayStore’s Best Daily Essential App for 2020.
Koo is a micro-blogging platform just like Twitter, available on iOS and Android, it has a website tpp. While Twitter’s character limit is 280, Koo’s is 400 and the app says you can express yourself 1-minute short audio or video ‘Koos’.
“Some app features include following, people feed, 1-1 messaging, English to language keyboard, language news feeds and hyper local hashtags,” Koo had earlier said. It’s currently available in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, English and Hindi, and the company says it will be rolling out Marathi, Bangla, Gujarati, Malayalam, Oriya, Punjabi and Assamese as well. However, at the time of signing up, it lets you pick only one option, and not multiple languages.
At the time of writing, it had over one million downloads on the Google Play Store and a rating of 4.7.
As Aprameya had said last month, “Koo has Indianized the micro-blogging format by creating an immersive language experience. Creators can now express themselves freely in their native language and users can follow them and their thoughts. We understand India’s language diversity is unique and a global solution doesn’t work for our people.”
The platform has even tied up with Republic TV, as part of which Republic Bharat trends daily hashtags on the platform, and the best posts get featured on the channel. “Republic will publish polls on Koo to users to get the pulse of the nation everyday which will be featured on their television network,” an official statement had said.
Koo said it witnessed a surge in downloads after Meity set up an account, but did not divulge numbers about its downloads.
Twitter has often come under fire for its content policies, so how does Koo differ? Aprameya told the Indian Express that it is a “free expression platform”, and exceptions are “when there is threat to life, threat of mob violence. Those are things where we will abide by the law of the land”.
According to the publication, Koo doesn’t yet have policies in place to tackle this, but will shore up their policies as and when needed. Koo reportedly has not dealt with scenarios of trolling yet, and will react as they happen — and doesn’t have a policy on how it intends to tackle it.