Indian tweeple go Koo
With rising anger against Twitter’s stand of ‘free speech’ which the company cited for unblocking 250 accounts the government wanted blocked, Koo, the Indian microblogging site, is being cited as the alternative
‘Connect with top Indians’ and ‘The voice of India’ — these two lines seem to have become irresistible for a large section of India’s 700 million internet users. Both these lines greet users in succession as they download and then create an account on the new social media platform Koo.
A microblogging platform, Koo has shot into the limelight with many prominent names from the political circles praising and creating accounts on the site. This, however, is not new. In the post 2014 India where many Indians view big tech especially Twitter as somewhat of a left-leaning and India bashing platform, microblogging sites to rival Twitter and give Indians an Indian platform have boomed. Not long ago Tooter was all the rage, and that too was being sold as India’s reply to Twitter, now it is Koo’s turn.
Koo, so far, seems to be doing better than Tooter and with over 3 million downloads, according to its founder, it has become the new favourite of Indians looking for an alternative to the US-based Twitter.
Koo is relatively young in the world of microblogging. The app was launched in 2020 and received the government’s Aatmanirbhar App innovation Challenge. The availability of indigenous languages in the app sets it apart from others in the field and being mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in one of his Mann Ki Baat addresses is a unique feather in its cap.
Questions were also being raised about the involvement of a China‐based company named Shunwei, connected to Xiaomi, in the app. However, Shunwei will be exiting the company and will be selling its stake making Koo an Indian entity.
On its part, Koo with its clean interface dotted with yellow accents is easy to use, especially if one is switching from Twitter. It gives its users the freedom to choose from a plethora of Indian languages that it supports bringing microblogging to millions who do not want to rely on English as the only interface language. The app as of now boasts a large number of politicians and celebrities alike, mostly from the government’s support group, who are actively promoting the use of an Indian app over foreign competitors.
Interestingly, the recent spike in its popularity has come close on the heels of a tussle between the Indian government and Twitter over the latter’s stand on the ongoing farmers’ protest. Twitter had blocked some 250 accounts in response to a legal notice by the government, citing objections based on public order in the country. Some of the accounts blocked under this order included investigative news magazines, activists and outfits associated with the protest being organised on the outskirts of Delhi. However, after a few hours, the accounts were restored by Twitter citing insufficient justification for the suspension.
On its part, the government of India threatened Twitter’s senior management in the country with fines and jail time if it refused to block the accounts again.
Twitter’s stand led to it being widely criticised by supporters of the ruling party citing an ‘international conspiracy’ in trying to destabilise the country.
Against this backdrop, the instant popularity of Koo isn’t that difficult to fathom. Such has been the backlash against Twitter and promotion of Koo, that Twitter handles of many popular personalities have added their Koo account links to their bio. However, how long this love for the new app will last is anyone’s guess.It will then be interesting to see if the app will make its mark on netizens and stay for the long run or will lose its sheen once the anger against Twitter dies out.
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