Chat platform Line hits 100 million users, adding 3 million per week

The Korean-owned Line, a runaway hit in nearby Japan, is expanding through Asia and the West

Line, the messaging platform that is now ubiquitous in Japan, has hit 100 million users worldwide in 19 months.

The platform, which is mainly accessed through smartphone apps, has over doubled its user base since June, when it had about 45 million people using it.

Over 80 percent of Line users log on at least monthly, and it is currently adding 3 million users a week, said NHN, the company that operates the service. The platform launched in June of 2011 and is trying to expand aggressively, using tie-ups with famous figures like rapper Snoop Dogg and Korean pop star Psy.

Line is chiefly a group chat platform with apps for phones and computers. It allows users to send "stickers," large colorful icons, as messages, offering many for free but selling some designs through iTunes and Google Play.

The app has become a standard way to trade contact details and keep in touch for the younger generation in Japan, where it has about 42 million users. It is generally seen as easier to use across different devices and platforms than other chat services, and less intrusive than full-fledged social network services.

In Japan, a number of local firms have launched similar services to try to compete. These include comm from mobile game firm DeNA, and a new chat service to be launched by game platform operator Gree.

Like other similar apps, Line uploads phone book data on handsets when it is installed (giving users an opt-out), which has helped fuel its growth.

The platform also allows for Internet calls and has upgrades that allow users to share pictures, greeting cards and play online games. NHN has also moved to expand it from a chat service to more of a social network, announcing in July it will give users their own home screens and timelines.

NHN is based in South Korea, where it operates the popular online search portal Naver.

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