Around Asia: Mobile messaging apps take on US tech giants


Asian mobile messaging apps are making waves among today’s younger generation across Asia, changing the communication landscape forever.

Western social networking sites Facebook, Google and Twitter, forerunners of communication-at-your-fingertips, now stand against their Asian counterparts, seen as the game changers of mobile messaging.

While they may have set the standards for social networking in terms of functionality, Asia’s mobile chat apps are appealing to the youth with a whole different take on how communication should be: enjoyable.

KakaoTalk, Line and WeChat are simply that – playful, tongue-in-cheek mobile messaging. They are seemingly taking over the world one cute icon at a time.

South Korea’s KakaoTalk had 3 million users in the US alone in July. It has gained an estimated 100 million users since it launched in 2010, although it has been left behind by its far-reaching successors – Japan’s Line and China’s WeChat.

Line surpassed KakaoTalk with around 200 million users. In the first six months since it was launched, its users reached the 10 million mark.

WeChat, developed by Tencent, needed only three months to reach 100 million users. The app then went global and grabbed its 200 millionth user six months afterwards.

Facebook and Twitter took more than five years to reach that figure.

With a population of 600 million people and fast-rising smartphone sales, southeast Asia has become the doorway to global expansion for mobile messaging apps.

The three apps are free to download and the companies say they are focusing on attracting new users from emerging Asian markets, including India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Though not focused on making profits at this early stage, the challenge remains for them to find ways to take advantage of their soaring user base while ensuring they do not fall out of fashion too quickly.

by Maesie Bertumen

Image: John Russell/Flickr



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