Kakao Talk, an app that allows members to send messages and photos to one another for free via their smartphones, is creaking under the weight of its phenomenal success.
Now boasting more than 13 million users, Kakao Talk’s dizzy ascent is under threat from technical issues arising from the vast amounts of data the service now handles. Over the last two or three weeks, the service has been unable to function properly on at least two occasions, eliciting the wrath of Korea’s netizens on notice boards and social media sites.
Launching in March of last year, Kakao Talk had a million users by September, growing to 3 million by November and 5 million in December. By February 10 that number had risen to 7 million, a number that rose by another million within two weeks.
But as the numbers soared, and the service’s popularity spread around the world, Kakao Talk’s servers have begun to wheeze. The app now typically handles 300 million messages every day, according to the ZDNet article, with much of that concentrated in peak times.
Unfortunately, Kakao has yet to find a way to monetize that huge popularity, hence the problems it faces in tackling the technical glitches. Extending its servers while also handling privacy issues — Kakao suffered a bit of a security breach last December — is an expensive business.
However, if Kakao is to stay successful, it clearly has no choice but to try. In the last three months, according to the ZDNet story, the company has doubled its number of servers from 300 to 600, but this still hasn’t been enough to keep up with demand, let alone handle updates and new features.
Kakao Talk has been Korea’s biggest app success story so far, demonstrating that Korean start-ups can compete with the world’s best when given the chance (and when they have a decent idea). For its strength in inspiring other Korean app developers and start-ups, it would be great to see it overcome these problems and continue on its upward trajectory.
UPDATE: @aaronnamba made the following excellent point on my Twitter feed:
Anyone have an answer?