Kik is a messaging app that allows people to chat with friends and strangers by using usernames rather than phone numbers.
Chat - with anyone you like
To sign up with Kik, you need to provide your name (real or not) and then pick a username as this is how your friends (and random people) will find you. While it makes it much harder to find friends, as you can't automatically populate your friends list via phone number, it does provide that extra layer of privacy as you don't have to give out any personal details. If you don't want people to find you, all you have to do is give a fake name.
Once you've found some friends who are also using Kik you can start chatting by clicking on the chat bubble. Be warned, you will almost certainly receive spam messages from people you don't know, although you can block people or mute chats for certain periods of time, which can help if people bombard you with messages or get irritating.
Kik allows you to create groups of up to 50 members, which can either be invite only or public. If you make the group public you can add a hashtag so people can search and join (again expect some spammers). There seem to be groups for most user interests and businesses are also getting in on the act by creating their own groups to gain 'followers'.
When chatting you can see if your friends have read the message (although not when they read it) and there is no option to turn this off (similar to WhatsApp's blue ticks feature). Although it doesn't tell you when your friend was last online.
Kik isn't as full featured as other messaging services, as there are no options to video chat, make calls, share your location or send audio. However, you can play game in Kik, share photos, and send stickers, YouTube videos, sketches and memes.
What you see is what you get
Kik sports a fairly basic interface with very few customization options. While you can change the color of your chat bubbles, there is no option to alter the background to your chats. The chats in this app look similar to the traditional SMS messaging services that come as standard on phones.
Saying that, the interface is easy to navigate and it will take you no time at all to get up and running with Kik.
Lags behind its competitors
As a messaging app, Kik doesn't compare well with the likes of WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, LINE, KakaoTalk and so on. It lacks the features of these other apps and it doesn't have any niche options that makes it stand out (such as privacy and security in the case of Telegram). While the ability to join groups according to hashtags is an interesting idea, Kik lacks the ability to only approve certain people, which would help keep the spam levels down.
If you want to chat and play games with strangers and random people then Kik could be a good option for you. However, as with many of these chat apps, your choice about whether or not to use Kik may depend on how many of your friends are signed up. And, while Kik's aim seems to be to incorporate features that make it a one-stop-shop for users needs, rather than just being a messaging app, the fact that it lacks so many basic features is likely to stop it becoming a market leader.