LINE—Japan’s Favorite Mobile Messenger App – Executive Summary –

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This Executive Summary was written by Kevin Zona

Similar to the way a superhero is molded by tragic events, Line was made in a response to the communication problem experienced during the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake. Nobody expected it would end up taking Japan by storm, with 90.2% of all Japanese smartphones running the app and almost half the Japanese population using it, one can say that Line has become the hero Japan needed.

An Origin story.
Line was originally made by the Korean tech firm’s Japanese office. With various addons to messaging such as Timeline, and a Stickers Store it was not only a reliable SMS text messaging app, but also essentially a social media platform. With Japan’s love for all things trendy it didn’t take long for everyone to jump onto this platform and mobilize their entire social media portfolios to Line. Even the grandmas.

Stickers are love, stickers are life.
Emoji’s have always been quintessential to Japan’s communication style so Line’s Sticker Store becoming a big hit was only a matter of time. Would you like to upgrade your emoji from stick figures to super cute and popular characters? Yes please! Also given Japan’s loose copyright laws, a huge market was able to be made of people submitting their own stickers and renditions of characters they like.

Give it to me straight – who’s on here?
Time for some numbers. With 215 million monthly active users (MAU) it is most definitely recognized as one of asia’s most popular messaging platforms. Over 60% of LINE’s MAUs are from Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Thailand. Even though Line is more popular for people connecting with Japanese users, it is slowly but steadily coming over to the west after a successful 2016 IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, which attracted a lot of interest and attention from companies and users alike.

What can you do on-Line, get it? On. Line.
Even though many people think of a line as a social networking service (SNS) like Twitter and Google Plus. Sorry about the bad joke, Twitter and Facebook. What Line really is to its users is a direct messaging platform, especially for those moments when you just can’t fold another t-shirt and need to talk to a fellow human. But more hardcore users of this platform can and do use it similarly to Facebook where you can post and share pictures, read articles, and even apply for part time jobs (Not popular on facebook, but on Line it is). Essentially for Line, its messaging first, and your social media life second.

Privacy privacy privacy.
Even though online privacy is still maturing in Japan, privacy has always been an essentially aspect for Japanese people since time immemorial. Line cators to that with its end-to-end encryption, private chat groups, private messaging, and a borderline dangerous feature of: if you login to another phone with your line you can essentially kiss your friend list, messages, entire existence good bye. It has happened to me. As a person who appreciates privacy done right, I’m happy to know my information is safe. As a person who has spent many hours contacting friends to apologise and re-add them to my friendlist I was traumatised.

So who is line for?
You. If you are interested in or are living in Japan, then line is a must. Making friends at bars, you ask “What’s your line”. Brushing past a cute girl, or guy, maybe even dog someday, you ask “Hey I’d like to grab some coffee, what’s your line”. Just joined a new sports club, they ask “Would you join our line group, we send updates”. Grandma cranky that you don’t share enough photos with her, you tell her “Why don’t you join our family line group”. I think you get the idea. Line is about staying in touch with the people that matter to you. Whether it be your friends, family, or that guy that uses an excellent combination of stickers and jokes.

So what’s your Line?

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