New chat apps split work, play

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New chat apps split work, play

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Ever since her company began using mobile messenger KakaoTalk as a communication tool at work, Kim Jin-ah, 32, has been feeling as if the boundary between work and private life is blurring.

“Even when I try to communicate with my friends outside of work, when I check my messages the group chat with company workers is always near the top of the list of new messages.

“Even outside of work, that made me feel like I am somewhat bound to work and my bosses,” she said.

Because most of her colleagues expressed the same sentiments, Kim’s company adopted an enterprise chat app two months ago. The business apps allow teams to securely and instantly communicate via PC, iOS, and Android devices, while easily being able to share files.

Overwhelmed workers like Kim are boosting demand for group messaging apps for corporate communication, opening up a fresh business segment. Those services not only provide a separate place for groups to chat but they offer business friendly features to attract new users.

With more than 95 percent of Korean smartphone users on KakaoTalk, the instant messenger that first connected users with family and friends quickly extended its reach to corporate life, bringing in the not-so-pleasant merge between formal and private communication.

But the practice soon exposed numerous side effects such as notification overloads and security issues. Workers lamented that the tools placed extra pressure on their home lives. There, tech companies spotted an opportunity for enterprise chat apps that would help them boost efficiency for sharing information. Big players like Facebook and Kakao and smaller startups all launched business messaging services to become market leaders in an emerging sector.

While messenger Slack has taken off in the United States, there is not yet a dominant player in the Korean market. A number of operators are vying for a greater slice of market share by offering customized functions.

Jandi, a work messaging app run by start-up Toss Lab, is targeting smaller enterprises or divisions within a company.

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The platform, which works across PCs, tablets and smartphones, allows users to create chat rooms by topic. It specializes in facilitating file sharing among workers, allowing colleagues to share large files. Messaging apps Line and KakaoTalk automatically downsize the shared content or set the limit for downloaded data if the size of a file is too large.

Now, some 5,000 companies use the app as a communication tool, including gaming outlet Nexon, e-commerce company Tmon, car-sharing app Socar and public institutes such as Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency and KAIST, an engineering-oriented university.

To distinguish itself from popular messaging apps like KakaoTalk, Jandi applied Internet security certificates often used in online banking.

Local tech company ESTsoft developed a business-oriented communication solution called TeamUp. The platform is similar to others, focusing on easy file sharing and platforms to collaborate or brainstorm.

To secure a stronger footing in the market, the company recently embarked on a free marketing campaign where corporate clients can use the platform for one year.

Market analysts see room for growth in the enterprise app market.

U.S. research firm Forrester said that the market is growing by an average of 61 percent every year.

The market size in Korea alone is expected to rise to 107.5 billion won by 2019 after growing an average 24.5 percent. In 2015, the segment is estimated to reach 49.5 billion won, up 37.5 percent from the previous year.

The growing market has prompted tech giant Facebook to enter the market, with business friendly service ChatWork. Beyond group and one-on-one messaging, ChatWork provides file-sharing and video calling.

But the new apps still have some critics.

In the United States, where enterprise messaging apps first took off, there are mounting complaints that work messaging apps are too intrusive. Some Korean users noted the same problem.

“In terms of privacy, I don’t know what the big difference is between Kakao and work-messaging apps,” said Jin Ha-eun, a 27-year-old woman who works in the retail industry.

“It also rings in a similar way as Kakao. What’s worse, the enterprise app doesn’t have enough options to deactivate the app in a certain time or by a certain group chat room.”

BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]



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