New social-messaging tool taps Chinese dissident in expansion drive

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 November, 2013, 4:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 November, 2013, 6:37pm

KwikDesk, a newly launched social online messaging platform, is expanding into the mainland with the help of an unlikely resource, exiled dissident Wuer Kaixi.

"Aside from helping with translation of the product, he is also helping us reach the Chinese market," Irish-based KwikDesk founder Kevin Abosch told the South China Morning Post.

Introduced last week, KwikDesk features a spartan, Twitter-like interface from which users can anonymously send messages of up to 300 words with a hashtag - a word or phrase preceded by the hash (#) sign - to identify its specific topic.

Users must also select a date on which the message will "self-destruct" and simply vanish online, from 24 hours, 10 days to 100 days. Messages can be retrieved by searching hashtags.

Abosch yesterday said the Chinese-language version of KwikDesk, which went live this week, could potentially serve as a platform for hundreds of millions of online users.

Official figures put the mainland's internet population at about 591 million by the end of June.

"I would think KwikDesk will appeal to Chinese speakers as it has to users in Europe and the Americas," said Abosch, who is recognised as one of the world's leading portrait photographers.

He said he wanted to collaborate with Wuer because of his work as a human rights activist.

Unfazed by the prospects of censorship on the mainland, Abosch said: "I don't see any reason the government would have a problem with KwikDesk."

Hong Bo, a Beijing-based entrepreneur who founded information-technology site Donews, said there were already services similar to KwikDesk operating illegally on the mainland.

"It's technically possible for KwikDesk to run in China, so long as it does not draw too much attention," Hong said. "But if Wuer is involved, that is very bad for KwikDesk because it won't be able to operate in the country."

Wuer, one of the student leaders behind the Tiananmen protests in 1989, has been in exile for about 24 years.

In a statement, Wuer said: "In the fight for freedom, we need platforms such as KwikDesk to anonymously exchange ideas."