Kakao Talk sees users quintuple from 2011

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Kakao Talk sees users quintuple from 2011

The number of Kakao Talk users looks set to outpace the size of Korea’s population of 50 million before long.

Kakao, the mobile application’s developer and operator, said yesterday that over 42 million users had registered as of early this month, up five-fold from 2011. One-fifth of the free application’s users live outside of Korea, according to Kakao spokeswoman Elin Lee.

The company defines a typical user as “a person who has downloaded the [chatting] application and used it at least once after going through its authorization process.”

A typical subscriber now sends 83 messages a day on average, the company said, compared to 41 one year earlier. The growing number of messages sent each day is taken as a gauge of strong user loyalty, Kakao said.

The statistics were released a week before the company celebrates its two-year anniversary.

Outside Korea, Japan has the largest number of Kakao Talk fans, Lee said, without providing further details. The company established its Japanese operation, the first and only one it has overseas, last July, but smartphone users in other countries can also download the service.

While Kakao Talk has been rapidly expanding its international foothold, Line, a mobile messaging service released last June by Naver, Korea’s No. 1 portal, has emerged as a strong rival.

Line was initially made exclusively for Japanese customers by Naver Japan. On the back of its multiple language options, however, the application quickly engaged users from over 100 countries, with an especially strong presence in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, according to Naver spokeswoman Kim Hyun-ji. As of early March, Line users exceeded 20 million, she added.

“Naver Japan developed the application because Japan did not really have a conspicuously popular mobile instant chatting app at the time,” she said. “We did not consider the Korean market because it was already dominated by Kakao Talk. We didn’t expect Line would become so popular.”

As for its competitive edge, Line offers a better range of animated stickers that enables users to express their emotions without typing text messages, Kim said.

Naver developed its Naver Talk app for the Korean market earlier last year. It was mainly used by those who had signed up with the portal site, but its sluggish performance led Naver to shut down the service a week ago.

Meanwhile, MyPeople, the nation’s No. 3 mobile messenger from Daum Communications, the nation’s second-largest portal site operator, said its users exceeded 15 million earlier this month. Daum said it does not yet have a plan to expand overseas.

By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]
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