Cuter than Cute: Line Messaging App Tops 300 Million Users

The bunnies and bears and baby ducks are winning the war on gadgets: Japanese messaging app Line today announced that it has surpassed 300 million registered users worldwide. That's double the user base it said it had in April, a mere seven months ago.

If you're not familiar with Line, it's an alternative messaging system that provides free voice calls and text messages to users. A group chat function is available, as is a simple social networking app. The idea, as with competing apps like the popular WhatsApp Messenger, is to let users do an end-run around the wireless carriers (and expensive voice and text plans) through its own proprietary communications system. As the number of users grows in size, it becomes increasingly more valuable and useful.

The most talked-about component of Line, however, is its integration of an overwhelming amount of cuteness into the app. Users can slap stickers and emoji (animated and sometimes elaborate emoticons) into their messages, often in the form of playful, cartoon baby animals. A matching game which can be played with other Line users involving candy and animal heads is also built into the service.

300 million users may sound mammoth, but as TechCrunch reports, the numbers may be misleading. That's because Line reports only registered users, not active monthly users, which is generally considered a more reliable metric for measuring the popularity of an app. For example, that registered user figure includes people who installed the app and never used it again, as well as counting the same user more than once if they have the app installed on multiple devices.

In comparison, WhatsApp boasts 350 million monthly active users, so even if Line's numbers aren't heavily inflated, it still has some growing to do if it wants to catch the market leader.

But as Line expands outside of Japan -- where 80 percent of its registered users reside -- its growth looks promising. The company says it is currently focused on markets in India, Turkey, and Western Europe, with an eye toward hitting 500 million users in 2014.

While the app itself is free, Line is monetized primarily through the sale of images of licensed characters like Hello Kitty, with the company saying it sells $10 million a month worth of stickers alone. Line has also recently begun expanding into additional apps, including a drawing app called Line Brush, a basic calendaring system called Line Card, and even an Android security app called Line Antivirus.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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