Messaging apps are the flavor of this year, as evidenced by Facebook’s $19 billion WhatsApp deal, but lately we’ve barely heard from Kik, the Canadian startup that beats WhatsApp, Snapchat and others in the US market. Until now, that is, after it launched its own virtual currency.

‘Kik Points’ quietly went live this week among selected users. It appears to be a cross between a virtual currency (to buy content) and a mechanism for incentivizing its young userbase to be more active inside the app.

Kik users can earn Points for undertaking certain tasks — in my case, it was browsing Reddit from inside Kik’s in-app Web browser, scoring points in a game, and inviting friends to the beta. The points can then be spent on items — though ‘Hipster Animals’ stamps (!) are the only content available at this point.

kik points 2 730x357 Kik introduces a virtual currency to encourage engagement and (potentially) make money

We reached out to Kik about the feature, but the company declined to provide comment. That obviously means we can’t be sure exactly what it has planned, but we have a fair idea.

Aside from increasing engagement among users and giving stickers away for free, Points could be an interesting monetization opportunity for Kik. Companies could pay to highlight their apps and content as incentivized actions, like the call to action to play Squared, or visiting a specific website. Kik could also charge to make branded content available for purchase with Points, which would work much like the branded stickers in chat apps like Line.

Kik has 140 million registered users and has raised $27.5 million from investors to date, having closed its most recent $19.5 million Series B round last year. Its only stab at drawing revenue thus far has been through the sale of stickers, which it began doing last year though it has said very little about.

Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston previously told TNW that the startup may look to sell prominent positions in its browser menu bar to companies that seek to target specific demographics within its userbase. But that is planned for the future and Points seem to be the greater focus right now.

There’s much to be admired about Kik’s approach to messaging, not to mention its rollercoaster evolution from early life as a music app for BBM. Its addition of a browser inside the app is unique and helps make chats between friends more interactive, it doesn’t tie users to their phone number, and leverages HTML5 technology to enable games — Zynga offers two — and Kik-optimized websites for publishers.