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.
Korean chat app company, Kakao, has disclosed that its 2013 revenue hit $203 million, netting $59 million in profits. 84 percent of the revenue was generated from commission through games, commerce, and digital content. The remaining revenue was generated from ads. Compared to 2012, Kakao’s revenue grew by 4.6 times while profit grew by 10 times in 2013. Total registered user count on KakaoTalk is at 140 million with over 426 games on its games platform contributed by 217 game developers and partners.
Last Friday, Tencent’s 15-year-old QQ messenger and social network might have hit it’s final major milestone – 200 million people used the service simultaneously. That’s more than the entire population of Brazil all concurrently using a single application. While Tencent’s mobile messaging app WeChat is renowned for having 355 million monthly active users, that number is still dwarfed by its desktop-first predecessor.
When India last held a general election in 2009, the country had fewer than 50 million internet users – a mere four percent of the population at the time. But as voting begins today in India’s newest general election – a marathon that runs through to the counting of the votes on May 16 – things have changed. And that means, as the country now grows closer to a quarter of a billion web users, the way people access the news is evolving as well.
Yesterday, VNG announced that it has hit over 10 million registered users on its chat app Zalo, up from three million users from July last year. In less than one year, the scrappy mobile project under the Vietnamese tech giant pulled in over seven million users. That’s in a market with about 21 million smartphone users. Zalo’s biggest chat app competitor is Viber. We couldn’t resist asking how the two stacked up against each other.
China Mobile has recorded its biggest dip in profit in over decade, as the world’s largest telco continues to face rising infrastructure costs and increasing pressures from mobile chat services as well as iPhone subsidies. Impending government regulations aren’t helping either. The Chinese carrier saw its fourth-quarter 2013 net income dip 16 percent to 30.2 billion yuan (US$4.9 billion), below the analyst estimates of 33.4 billion yuan, Bloomberg reported Thursday, noting that this marked the company’s sharpest profit drop since 1999.
WeChat, the China-made messaging app that’s trying to chat up new users around the world, now has a Mac app as a complement to its mobile experience. The new WeChat Mac app is very simple – it just does basic messaging and file transfers – and is essentially a packaged version of the existing ‘Web WeChat’ which works in any browser.
Tuesday morning’s press events start with a conference held by BlackBerry (BBRY) and its CEO, John Chen. The company received some positive mention thus far with Microsoft on Sunday and Monday trumpeting the news of its “BBM” instant messenger software coming to Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Phone, and that Ford will dump Microsoft’s software for autos in favor of BlackBerry’s “QNX” embedded OS. Chen emerges, smiling warmly, greeting some familiar faces in the front row, in a sober grey suit and purplish tie. He seems raring to get going with the proceedings. He wants to start off by talking about progress.
There’s even more focus on messaging apps this week after Facebook’s buy-up of WhatsApp. The acquisition has also highlighted the many strong alternatives that there are to WhatsApp, especially across Asia, such as Line, Viber, KakaoTalk, and WeChat, who collectively have over a billion registered users. Some Asian nations have homegrown challengers as well. In India there’s Hike app. It launched in September 2012. Kavin Mittal, from the Bharti Softbank (BSB) incubator that runs Hike, tells us that Hike has now grown to 15 million registered users. Mittal says that number has grown by a factor of three in the past nine months.