Kakao to enter metaverse and focus on connecting unconnected

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Kakao to enter metaverse and focus on connecting unconnected

Kakao CEO Namkoong Whon speaks during an online press conference on Tuesday. [KAKAO]

Kakao CEO Namkoong Whon speaks during an online press conference on Tuesday. [KAKAO]

KakaoTalk will shift its focus from connecting those who already knew each other offline, to helping users create new friends online, in a bid to expand its global presence.
The ultimate goal is to offer metaverse services that connect users with each other using text, image, video and even virtual spaces, Kakao said.
“We believe that Kakao’s current [communication] services, which center around online communication between offline acquaintances, are not enough for global expansion,” said Kakao CEO Namkoong Whon during an online press event on Tuesday.

“That is why we are expanding the KakaoTalk service from acquaintance-based communication to interest-based community networking,” said Namkoong. “And we named this world Kakao Universe, where people are connected based on their passion.”

Namkoong defined metaverse as more of a social concept — a new way of online communication and interaction — than a technological one.
Kakao’s metaverse vision will start with its messenger service. Unlike previous messenger services that focused on providing a communication tool for those who already knew each other, KakaoTalk will offer a place where people can meet others who share similar passions, according to Namkoong. The existing messaging functions will not be altered.

Other Kakao affiliates also have plans to connect their services to the Kakao Universe, which include creating a 3-D metaverse platform service.
The first pillar of the Kakao Universe will be the “open link service” connecting to the KakaoTalk messenger app. The open link on other apps or websites redirects users to an open chatroom on KakaoTalk where people can create or participate in a chatroom anonymously. For example, a person reading a webtoon on the Kakao Webtoon application can click an open link to get connected to a chatroom for the webtoon’s fans.
The open link function will enable KakaoTalk users to build communities based on their interests and hobbies, said Kakao. The function will be updated within the first half of next year in Korea, and will be gradually expanded to the global market.

KakaoTalk will update minor features on the app used purely for fun as well. A new profile decoration feature with customizable characters and pets will start within the latter half of this year. Friends will be able to leave messages on the Kakao profile page, too.

Content creators will soon be able to make money using Kakao services. Namkoong said that Kakao will enable profits for creators, such as writers on Kakao’s written content publishing website Brunch, using advertisements, membership subscriptions, online tipping and e-commerce functions.

In line with the Kakao Universe vision, Kakao Brain, an artificial intelligence research subsidiary, aims to create new software for Kakao’s metaverse service including an interactive 3-D character generator software and conversational software. Large-scale computing systems, or so-called hyper-scale artificial intelligence, such as the KoGPT language model, will be used.
Neptune, a game publisher 34.8 percent owned by Kakao Games, will collaborate with metaverse company Colorverse to create a virtual space platform also named Colorverse. Similar to its predecessors like Naver’s Zepeto and SK Telecom’s ifland, Colorverse will be a metaverse-based networking service.

Kakao said that just like how people will be able to find someone with similar passions on KakaoTalk, users will be able to connect with others on Colorverse based on their personal interests and even make money by creating content.

“If Kakao Universe becomes a widely-used service that connects people from all across the globe based on their interests, we will be able to realize our vision of ‘Beyond Korea’ in the long term,” said Namkoong.

BY SHIN HA-NEE [shin.hanee@joongang.co.kr]
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