(Photo courtesy of Chunghwa Telecom Co.)
Taipei, Nov. 26 (CNA) Japan's Line Corp., creator of the fast-growing social messaging app Line, said Tuesday that its Taiwan office will be expanded by five to 10 times next year to create more localized "stickers" and mobile content.
Kang Hyun-bin, head of Line Business Development Division, told CNA that the Taiwan branch now has recruited about 10 employees since its establishment in May and is planning to hire more local workers for marketing, sales, information technology and design.
He said Taiwan has become Line's third-largest market around the world with over 17 million registered users, behind only Japan with 49 million and Thailand with 20 million, driven by its popular oversized emoticons, or stickers.
Line has more than 7 billion daily messages and over 1 billion stickers sent by worldwide users, according to Kang, who declined to break down the figures for Taiwan.
"Given that we have a huge number of users in Taiwan, we are planning an expansion of our office here in order to improve the user experience and prepare for launching new services," Kang said.
"The new services are expected to be released starting in the first half of next year," he said at a signing ceremony for a strategic alliance with Chunghwa Telecom Co., the country's biggest mobile provider.
Under the agreement, Chunghwa Telecom offers one-year free data usage for its mPro data service subscribers who use Line, including sending text messages, stickers, photos, videos, audio clips and making voice calls over the app.
According to statistics provided by Informa Telecoms and Media, 19.1 billion over-the-top (OTT) messages were sent each day in 2012 via mobile apps such as Line, and this number is expected to reach 41 billion by the end of 2013.
OTT refers to delivery of video and audio over the Internet without a multiple system operator being involved in the control or distribution of the content. The provider may be aware of the contents of the Internet Protocol packets but is not responsible for, nor able to control, the viewing abilities, copyrights, and/or other redistribution of the content.
"We have taken a big step toward building a new business model in the mobile market by collaborating with an OTT service provider for the first time in Taiwan," said Lin Kuo-feng, president of Chunghwa Telecom's mobile business group.
The Line app, developed in Japan for Internet-based contact after the massive earthquake and tsunami there in March 2011 disrupted phone lines, now has more than 300 million users worldwide, 80 percent of whom are outside Japan.
Akira Morikawa, chief executive officer at Line, said in a statement a day earlier that he aims to have 500 million users by the end of 2014 and to develop Line into "the world's top communication service."
(By Jeffrey Wu)