I Joined the Koo App So You Don’t Have To


I Joined the Koo App So You Don’t Have To

Illustration: Arati Gujar

Twitter’s decision to not censor Donald Trump’s incitement for months, and then the eventual decision to suspend him permanently, both received backlash online. Countries realised that they need their own social media platforms, so as to not be held hostage by Silicon Valley companies. And so began the search for “India’s Twitter”.

It started with “Tooter” which had a similar blue colour scheme. Tooter was to Twitter what Abibas is to Adidas. It looks and feels the same from distance, but is a cheap knock off that lasts only a few days. Tooter withered away faster than winter in Mumbai. A few weeks later, we have a new player in town, and I spent a couple of hours on it so you don’t have to.

“Koo” already has an upper hand on Tooter, in that it has an original name and a yellow colour scheme instead of the standard blue one. However, Koo’s logo still happens to be a bird that could also pass off as a mango. Given the loud decibels at which conversation flows on social media, I wonder why we are still slandering innocent birds. When will we have the “Bark” app that we truly deserve?

The only way to sign up to Koo is using your mobile number, so rip privacy. Immediately you are given the option of choosing from multiple Indian languages, which is a welcome change. I accidentally selected Tamil, and had to make 12 new friends and watch three Kamal Haasan movies to figure out how to change the language again. However, I figured it out and was ready to go. Editing a profile includes all standard fields, but a desi touch is missing. What’s the point of a desi app if we don’t have a field for “Shaadi ka kya socha hai?” and “Salary kitni milti hai?”

On Twitter, you tweet. On Koo, you… Koo.

On the main feed, you get a suggestion of initial accounts to follow. First in that list, is of course Republic TV. When you are joining a new social media platform, nothing is as reassuring as knowing that Arnab Goswami is on it too, so even if there’s nobody on the platform, he can shout and make it seem like a crowd. Sambit Patra and Kangana Ranaut have also announced that they will join Koo, after which Jack Dorsey heaved a sigh of relief and Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder and CEO of Koo probably noticed a rise in blood pressure levels.

The trending hashtags on Koo over the last couple of days have been #ArrestAllInstigators, #BanTwitter, #AndolanJivi and #IndiaWithModi. For now, it is largely a right-wing echo chamber, with a large group still spreading rumours and floating new theories under #JusticeForSSR. The search function is still buggy, finding a user is like searching for a decent SRK movie in the last decade. Just like vikas in India, some pages load quite slowly, while others freeze with an “unexpected error”.  On the upside, it is like a blank slate, whether there are neither pre-wedding photoshoot images, nor parents sharing good morning forwards.

Koo has a long way to go before influencers adopt it, brands spend on it and India’s masses flock to it. India does need its own social media options and full marks to the Koo team for trying, but there are too many things to fix and a decent idea is only as good as its execution. Ask demonetisation.