Line, the messaging app that has nabbed 490 million registered users in three years, announced its plans for becoming a major player in the ecommerce industry at a news conference in Tokyo today. The strategy marks an interesting inflection point for Line. The service gained popularity for it’s colorful stickers, grew its revenue base with mobile games , and now has its sights set on ecommerce.
Free messaging app Hike, the Indian answer to WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat, has just raised its largest round of funding: US$65 million led by Tiger Global Management. Bharti SoftBank (BSB), a joint venture of Bharti Enterprises and Japan’s Softbank Corporation, also participated in the latest round. Earlier, Hike had raised US$7 million in 2013, and another US$14 million in April 2014 from BSB.
NEW DELHI: About a decade and half after Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Airtel raised $60 million from Warburg Pincus, Hike, the instant messenger app company founded by his son Kavin, has raised $65 million from foreign investors led by New York-based Tiger Global. “I raised my first $60 million at age 42, Kavin has done it at 26. Sign of a changing India. A youthful and tech savvy India. A big congratulations to Kavin and his stellar team at Hike,” Sunil Mittal told ET.
Line’s DIY sticker shop is proving to be a respectable hit. The company behind the popular messaging app is reporting that user-created stickers hit JPY 1.23 billion (just under US$12 million) in sales for the three-and-a-half month period ending August 7. While that is still a small fraction of LINE’s overall revenues – US$177 million from April to June 2014 – it still shows remarkable growth.
Chinese web giant Tencent (HKG:0700) has just released its Q2 earnings report. We’ll look at the financials later, but first the number that we all want to see – Tencent’s messaging app, WeChat, is now at 438.2 million monthly active users (MAUs). Social gaming tied to WeChat and QQ (Tencent’s old MSN-style instant messaging service) generated RMB 3 billion (US$487.4 million) in revenue in Q2. That newest WeChat MAU figure is up from 396 million in Q1; it’s risen from 236 million at the same period last year. Here’s a chart of every MAU figure for WeChat that the company has ever released:
China is tightening control over mobile messaging services with new rules that limit their role in spreading news. The regulations will affect WeChat, a messaging service with close to 400 million active users that is one of China’s most popular apps. The rules specifically target so-called “public accounts” that users such as scholars, celebrities, and businesses can set up to reach a wide audience. Under the new regulations, only news agencies and other groups with official approval can publish whatever the government considers political news via public accounts. “All other public accounts that have not been approved cannot release or reprint political news,” the regulations said.
BEIJING: China is banning users of Internet messaging services from posting political reports without permission, and demanding they promise to “uphold the socialist system”, state media said on Thursday (Aug 7). China tightly controls the Internet, but its online population of 632 million has used messaging applications to push the boundaries of the ruling Communist party’s restrictions on free speech.
TOKYO, Aug 3 — A messaging app launched in the aftermath of Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Line is moving towards a possible dual listing in Tokyo and New York as it jostles for space in an increasingly crowded and imaginative market. Combining instant messaging with shopping, gaming and other features such as letting users send each other cute cartoon “stickers”, Line is hugely popular in Japan, particularly among teenagers.
Line users who obsessively update the app noticed a new treat today – a Snapchat-like function called hidden chat. Hidden chat can be chosen from the same drop down menu as video chat or phone call. Currently only available for one-on-one chats, the feature allows users to engage in a private conversation that will be deleted. Each message will be visible for up to one minute and the exact time is adjustable by the user. Text, stickers, and photos are all covered. Video files, however, cannot be sent via hidden chat.
Free messaging app Hike, the Indian answer to WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat, has reached the number one spot on the Google Play Store in India, toppling WhatsApp and Facebook. It had also grabbed the top spot on the iOS App Store last week, and is now number three on Windows Marketplace as well. “Again, ahead of WhatsApp,” points out Kavin Bharti Mittal, who directs strategy at Hike.
WeChat is pretty much ubiquitous in China these days, and the rise of the popular messaging app is seen in the huge impact it’s had on how people use SMS. Or, rather, how people have largely stopped using SMS. New figures from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) show that people in China send an average of 39.8 text messages per month – which is barely more than one per day (well, 1.3 to be precise).
TOKYO: In the three years since it launched its free messaging app, Japan-based Line has attracted more than 430 million users in 230 countries. As the user-base expands, revenue is also skyrocketing. In the first quarter of 2014, revenue was 223 per cent higher than a year earlier at US$144 million. In an interview with Channel NewsAsia correspondent Mike Firn, the chief operating officer of Line Corp, Takeshi Idezawa, talked about how Line plans to keep on growing and attracting more users.
Japan’s powerhouse messaging app Line announced last February that it would begin accepting applications for sticker sets made by ordinary folks (or more likely, independent designers), to whom the company would share 50 percent of the sales revenues with. Late last week, while Tech in Asia was in the thick of Startup Asia Singapore 2014, the app’s “Creators Market” officially opened for business.
That’s how China’s state-run CCTV described WeChat’s public accounts in a recent episode of its Domestic Focus program. Weixin’s growing number of public accounts have become a popular means for China’s bloggers, brands, and media to engage audiences through the country’s most popular chat app. In March, WeChat clamped down on political content, banning several outspoken bloggers. But the CCTV program alleges WeChat hasn’t done enough to clean up the “huge amount” of misinformation and false advertisements, according to TechWeb.
Japanese messaging company LINE posted impressive revenue and user numbers. In a release it says revenue from the core LINE operations was 14.6 billion yen, or $143 million. It also says it has 420 million users now. For comparison, WhatsApp, which Facebook valued at $19 billion, has 500 million active monthly users. There is no disclosed revenue for WhatsApp, but analysts at Sterne Agee estimated it at $20 million.
Fukuoka-based Glue believes that its new in-browser video chat service, 1meeting, could someday take on the likes of Skype. The four-member startup, founded by system engineer Kota Sakoda in July 2011, provides a variety of web services to domestic clients that are spread out across the entirety of Japan, but its latest product looks like its most promising yet. 1meeting doesn’t require any kind of sign-up or installation and Sakoda claims that the picture and sound quality is better than the competition.
Le Hong Minh, co-founder and CEO of VNG, Vietnam’s top internet company, revealed on stage at Startup Asia Singapore some key statistics about its growth. It made US$100 million in revenue last year, grew its team to 2,000 – up from 5 since its founding in 2004 – and gets about one million new monthly active users a month for Zalo, its mobile messaging app.
In western countries, separating work from play is seen as a healthy practice. We’ve built our web tools around this premise. You don’t hunt for jobs on Facebook. You have a work email and a personal email. Very few of your LinkedIn references are also contacts in WhatsApp. But in China, all online communication converges at WeChat. The four-year-old chat app now functions as text messenger, Facebook, Reddit, Skype, IRC chatroom, Meetup, and Instagram – all rolled into one.
TOKYO — Line, the company behind the namesake Internet application, will start offering a free messaging service next month that will enable businesses to communicate individually with customers. The Tokyo company currently offers retailers and restaurants a plan in which they can send only mass messages. This Line business app will be revamped in mid-May, enabling one-to-one messaging with customers for free. Advance registrations will be accepted starting Thursday.
Last week, Chinese tech giant Alibaba released an updated version of Laiwang, the company’s bid for a mobile messaging app in the vein of WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat. Last autumn, Alibaba chairman Jack Ma led an headline-grabbing publicity blitz in an effort to lure in more users onto Laiwang. But many suspected that Laiwang was simply too late to the messaging game and would struggle to catch up to WeChat (or Weixin, as it’s known in China), the popular messaging app made by Tencent.