Kerpoof Helping Kids Connect Online, Create Together

Kerpoof launched its set of picture, story, and movie creation tools for kids at the TechCrunch40 conference this past September. Since then, the company has been working to improve the functionality of these free browser-based products and, in particular, to transform Kerpoof into a platform for kids to communicate and collaborate with each other online.

Kids can now create their own avatars and join groups with other Kerpoof users. Since the site wants to encourage only kids who already know each other to interact online, each group requires a name and password to join. These are either shared by kids themselves or given out by parents who want to regulate their kids’ contacts. Once several kids are in the same group, they can send messages to each other, share their Kerpoof creations, and do other things like gift clip art objects.

The picture creation tool also now allows kids to work on pictures at the same time. Picture edits propagate to every user’s view instantly, allowing kids to make changes together while they chat. Kerpoof is working on making it possible for kids to collaborate over movies and stories, too, and on adding support for games and social puzzles later in the year. A type of virtual currency will be coming soon as well.

There are a lot of smaller enhancements made across Kerpoof’s set of tools, including new special effects for the movie creator and attractive themes representing different styles of art. A new “Super Doodle” tool is also being tested that enables kids to freehand draw and import their drawings into the picture tool. Overall, Kerpoof is shaping up to be a very compelling – if still small – suite of creativity/learning applications for kids.

American kids are not the only ones to notice; Kerpoof has become popular with both teachers and foreigners as well. While the company can’t measure directly how many teachers are using it in the classroom, CEO Krista Marks says that they are seeing usage patterns that suggest many classrooms are signing on as a whole during school hours. Kerpoof is also seeing 32% of its traffic from outside of the United States, with Moscow providing the second highest level of traffic among cities internationally (see the map to the right). Because of this foreign interest, Kerpoof is working on localizing its product for several languages such as Russian, Spanish, Italian, French, and German.

Kerpoof will eventually transition into a subscription-based service, although Marks says that all current offerings will remain free. The company was the Editor’s Choice of Children’s Technology Review for December 2007.