Amid the ongoing farmers' protest, Twitter's refusal to restrict several accounts and remove some content has irked the Indian government. But even as Twitter clashes with the Indian government, there is a new desi app on the block. And Union Ministers and official government handles are now rushing to join the new social media platform that appears to bear a rather startling resemblance to Twitter.
The Koo app is a Made In India alternative to Twitter, which will allow people to express themselves in Indian languages. While sticking to the trend of having an avian logo, Koo features a yellow chick with a sketch of the Indian flag above it.
"Koo is a Personal Updates and Opinion sharing micro-blogging platform," the apps Google Play listing explains.
Endorsed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the winner of the August 2020 AatmaNirbhar App Innovation Challenge held by the Government, Koo allows people to post updates and follow "interesting people" as well as viewing the fed in Indian languages and checking out the Trending page.
Over the last day or so, a slew of BJP leaders as well as official government handles have joined Koo.
"I am now on Koo. Connect with me on this Indian micro-blogging platform for real-time, exciting and exclusive updates. Let us exchange our thoughts and ideas on Koo," tweeted Union Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday.
Fellow Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad already has a verified account on the new app, while the Press Information Bureau and MyGov also have accounts.
"From India; For the world! NITI Aayog is excited to be a part of the Koo App, a winner in the Social category of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge! Listen to interesting thoughts by Niti Aayog on the app," tweeted the official handle for the think tank, sharing its Koo profile link.
The Indian government has recently been at loggerheads with Twitter amid the ongoing farmers protest. As the protests are amplified by users of the microblogging platform, the government had reportedly called for more than a thousand Twitter accounts to be restricted, and directed the organisation to comply with its order to remove contents pertaining to "farmer genocide" hashtags.
The government has repeatedly said that the microblogging platform may face "penal action" for non-compliance. Nonetheless, even as the US-based organisation reaches out to the Indian government for formal talks, it has thus far refused to comply with the instructions.
But can Koo really replace Twitter?
While it is rather unlikely that Indian government handles and personalities will ever completely leave Twitter in favour of another similar platform, Koo's advantage lies in its regional focus. "Koo is an app built for Indians to share their views in their mother tongue and have meaningful discussions," the Google Play listing says.
And while the app is presently rated a whopping 4.7 stars, the comments left by reviewers seems to suggest that most of them have not actually used the app. "The interface seems very comical. It should be elegant. Giving it five star cuz its going to be at par with Twitter very soon. Also change its name," wrote one user.
For official handles, this can become a new platform to connect with the people of India in languages that they can understand. At the same time, it is unlikely that the international community as a whole will join Koo. As such, government handles will find it impossible to leave Twitter behind, at least in the near future.
The Koo app has also prompted many to recall Tooter, yet another made in India Twitter alternative. Despite extensive news coverage in the initial days, the app has remained somewhat obscure, becoming fuel for memes on Twitter.