April 2017 News

Social Media Ban Fulfills Kashmir Developers' 'Pip'e' Dream

28 April 2017
Rising Kashmir
Peer Viqar Ul Aslam

Srinagar: Young Kashmiri developers are launching alternative Kashmir-centric social networks like Pipe, Connect Kashmir, KashmirChat as the government is busy implementing the month-long social media ban over 22 social networking sites and applications. Some of these applications were developed as early as 2016 but were not popular before the government started to discuss the social media ban on popular networking sites like Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Twitter. The number of downloads has risen overnight to over 10,000 on Google Playstore for some of the locally developed apps. 'We received 10,000 plus downloads in just 24 hours as the government announced the ban on popular social networks,' said Usman Tareen, 16, android developer, KashmirChat. 'Looking at the response, we launched a new website kashmirweb.online in just under 12 hours.' Beyond using VPN, people desperately felt the need of alternative and locally-developed applications when the most promising social networks fell one by one to the State blockade. The government issued the order on Wednesday as measures necessary for bringing the escalating situation back to normal and stopping the rumour mongering that the government states as one of the primary reasons of the uprising. The fresh student protests have delayed the restorations of high-speed networks in the State, as the 3G and 4G service stand suspended since April 17. The newly ordered social media ban has set the undeterred young developers into a marketing race to lead as the new popular social choice for social network and rise up in the list of various locally built applications. Many of these applications are using servers stationed outside the country as the chances of being blocked are limited for them. For now, the only gainers of the social media ban are these app makers, and with increasing downloads, these apps are all set to take on the mainstream networks. 'We want people to look at these alternatives, when a lot of people will migrate to these applications the ban will be obsolete,' said Naveed Malik, 16, KashmirChat developer. 'We will still be connected and able to communicate not everyone wants to discuss stone-throwing online.' Hanan Muzaffer, KashmirChat developer said, 'We are not professional developers but we want people to know that the alternative networks can be very useful in staying connected with family and friends.' The social media ban will force people to costly medium like direct calls as people nowadays rarely use ISD calling as WhatsApp and Facebook calling saves them a lot of hard-earned money. 'I am a low wage employee here in Dubai and can't afford to call Kashmir daily, making me worried about my family back home,' said Burhan Shah. 'This ban is not just unethical but disastrous for low-income employees like me.' Startups and business owners who promote their businesses online through social media advertisements are irked by the government's decision of social media ban. 'The recent internet gag will be back-breaking to most startups as the startups used to promote their products online via Facebook and other social networking sites,' said Mir Saqib, President of Consortium of Young Industrialists . 'Social networking sites are easy and cheap medium of advertisement.' Saqib said social networking was proving phenomenal for startups and their product marketing but the recent internet gag would kill most of these startups in no time, making the entire young community more skeptical about starting business in Kashmir, and financers even more skeptical in investing in these startups. 'Our economy is in bad shape already and the internet gag will make it will worse for majority of us,' he said. 'Internet is not just a source of entertainment but for startups, its source of livelihood and the ban is a direct attack on our bread and butter.' Signal application is making rounds in discussions since Wednesday, and people are considering this famous private messenger as it provides features like 'disappearing messages' and 'Video-Voice Calling' with high-end privacy, but local developers claim there has been a surge in downloads of local apps and memberships on their social networks. The resentment about the social media ban was clear and as soon as the announcement was made people started to change their profile pictures, stating messages over black images, registering their protest. On one such image, Kashmir marked in red and the box read as 'I'm not away, I'm banned.' Thousands of people uploaded this image to their social media profiles. Among various top indigenous-built applications is Pipe, one of the most successful android applications from Kashmir. A team of four young developers built Pipe to create innovative new platforms and mediums for people. The one-and-a-half-year-old application has about 10,000 downloads and impressive 4.5 rating, and is mostly used by newspapers, media personnel and various known personalities have verified badges attached to them on this Twitter-like application. 'The need for proper information channel was the main reason to create 'Pipe,' said Abid Rashid, 24, co-founder Pipe. 'Pipe harnesses the power of push notification to keep users updated about the content which interests them.' Rashid said information has 100 percent value when it's reaches a person on time. 'As a tech company, we have to incur a huge business loss due to these bans that is forcing us to relocate our office outside Kashmir,' Rashid said. Another such local social network is Connect Kashmir. With more than 1000 downloads on Google Playstore, and the rising number of users, Connect Kashmir has maintained a 5 star rating. Though the app was released in October last year, it has started to gain pace since the ban was announced. People were seen desperately sharing their calling numbers on the dying social networks and mentioning their alternative user handles.