This Line is Going Up
Simeon Cho General Manager, Line Business Office
Line was developed in the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake in 2011, after the Japanese communication system had been damaged. Line Corporation says that the Line messaging app has since reached 230 million users as of today, with 47 million coming from Japan, 18 million from Thailand, 17 million from Taiwan, 15 million from Spain and 14 million from Indonesia.
There have been over 7 billion messages and 1 billion stickers sent, and the company announced a revenue of 12.8 billion yen (approx. US$132.3 million) in Q2 of this year, a 348.9% increase year on year. The company also announced that it is currently making over US$10 million per month selling stickers, and the figure is rising each month. This Line is going up and up, and we met up with Simeon Cho, GM of Line Business Office, to chat about this chatting service. How is Line different from other messaging services like WhatsApp? If you think of Line as a messaging service, then yes, we’re competing with WhatsApp. But in reality, we don’t think we’re competing with WhatsApp. WhatsApp is a utility, just exchanging and communicating with texts.
But Line is different. Even though Line was invented as a mobile messenger, Line has evolved. At the beginning, Line was a mobile messenger with unique stickers, but now Line is more like a platform. Under this platform, we released various Line apps and features, like Line Camera, Line Card and Line Tools. We also released Line games, leveraging the Line social graph. So that’s how we differentiate Line from the other messaging apps. How did Line come up with the idea to build a platform within a platform? At the beginning, we didn’t have any grand plans to evolve into a platform. We just created the Line messenger in June 2011, because of the big earthquake in Japan in March 2011. At the time, I heard that communications had broken down because family and friends were all trying to contact each other from inside and outside of Japan. We realized how important frequent communication between loved ones and family is, so that’s how we started with Line.
At the time, our main focus was on how to make mobile communication easier and more fun, so we created stickers. Using stickers, you can easily communicate with your friends and family. If you use WhatsApp, you probably have to tap the words out, but if you’re using Line, just sending one sticker can bring across what you mean.
We realized that all the mobile trends were converging onto platforms. Like Facebook, which is a platform which created its own eco-system, Line is trying to build a similar eco-system on the mobile space. How has Line managed to achieve such tremendous growth? Actually, Line is not the first mover. Before Line, there were other apps which arrived earlier. We needed to differentiate Line from the others, so we created stickers. If you’re just looking at the feature, maybe it’s just a big version of the emoticon. But the big difference is that once you use it, you can feel that the sticker is more expressive.
And because we created this sticker feature, we could create content too. The sticker characters, Moon, Brown, Cony, James, they’re not just stickers but characters. Leveraging those characters, we created Line animations too. We also added various features and apps on the Line platform, so we could differentiate Line from the others. This is how we could achieve such rapid growth. Line has its three Cs: Communication, Content and Commerce. How did Line come up with that? Even though Line was started as a mobile messenger, Line is trying to build an eco-system using the Line social graph. So using the social graph, we want to provide not just communication, but we want to provide a more enhanced mobile experience. One way is through content; another is through e-commerce. So that’s why we introduced both. Introducing content and commerce services into our platform further helps to differentiate us from the other messenger apps. Why go into music and e-commerce with the launch of Line Music and Line Mall? Music can be one form of communication. The sharing of music is one good way of communicating, that’s why we’re introducing the music service on the Line platform. Even e-commerce is one form of communication too.