If you have friends or family in Asia, chances are you’re already acquainted with Line, the Japanese messaging app that lets you communicate in stickers as well as in text. But for Americans who’ve yet to be exposed to Line, they may be waiting just a little while longer yet. That’s because Line CEO Takeshi Idezawa revealed in an interview with VentureBeat that the company will be focusing primarily on four Asian markets (Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia), rather than expanding efforts in the U.S.
This is a marked departure from the app’s strategy from a few years back, when Line first made its attempt to move west. But given the sheer number of other players in the space, like WhatsApp, Snapchat, Twitter, and even old iMessage and SMS, Line backtracked a bit. Now, it’s honing in on just these four markets, and clearly, this revised approach has worked. After all, Line underwent an IPO earlier this year at an impressive $1.1 billion, and has reported third quarter revenue of 35.9 billion yen (about $328 million), a 2 billion yen or $18 million increase over the second quarter.
Today, Line can claim top honors when it comes to messaging platforms in Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand — three of its four key markets. But that’s just the beginning, Idezawa says. As VentureBeat reports, the CEO “aims to make the Line service so integral to the lives of its users that his company will build an insurmountable advantage against its Western and Chinese rivals in the chat wars to come,” and will do so by launching a Slack-like version of the app for the workplace in 2017, as well as exploring video services for Line. And of course, Line also plans on investing heavily in artificial intelligence and chatbots.
“Right now Line users can hail a taxi, book an airline ticket and get food delivered as well as perform many different transactions inside the Line app. But not all this is automated by AI and some of the processes are still manual,” he told VentureBeat. “We think that with further use of AI, efficiency will increase for our users.”
So look out, America. It may not be here yet, but there may soon be a Line revolution.