Although social networking services like Facebook (News - Alert) might have stolen some of the thunder of instant messaging services in the U.S., they’re taking off in Asia as they offer services such as games in addition to live chat.
“Japan, Korea and to a lesser extent China are leading the way in terms of mobile messaging-centric apps that move into diverse and potentially very profitable new service areas like gaming, affiliate marketing, next-generation emoticons," Mark Ranson of Ovum (News - Alert) told the Associated Press (News - Alert). "Offering a free, high quality messaging service is a good way of building a large and loyal user base which can later be introduced to more readily monetizeable services."
The major live chat services include Line, with 60 million users, Kakao Talk with the same number and Nimbuzz with 100 million users. WeChat, a live chat service from the Chinese firm Tencent, has over 200 million users.
The explosive growth in live chat services in the region has been spurred by the increasing adoption of smartphones. While early instant messaging clients on phones have been bare-bones affairs, these new apps have evolved to offer some sophisticated featuress, such as games.
These services also make money. Line has brought in around $3 million dollars and custom stickers and emoticons it’s sold to users. Kakao Talk has developed business models for live chat that don’t depend on advertising, including the ability for users to send Starbucks coupons to friends. It also shows weather forecasts, music videos and coupons.
The appeal of these services is that they make it easy to create unlimited group chats.
It’s become so popular in South Korea that “let’s do ka talk” has become a national catchphrase, the same way that Americans “Facebook” each other. South Koreans use Kakao Talk’s Android (News - Alert) app for an average of 62 minutes a day, compared with 17 minutes for Facebook.
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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli