Line, KakaoTalk, and Kik are only a few of the social networks that exist in Asia today. Since China blocked Facebook and Twitter with little explanation in 2009, Asian-branded start-up companies have risen with smartphone messaging apps, microblogging and experimentations with booking services (for example, taxis, hotels and airline flights).
Weixin, an instant voice messaging app, has become one of the fastest growing social networks in China, with over 300 million users. Without Facebook on the market, the social network has flourished and risen with a faster adoption rate than both Twitter and Facebook, reaching Southeast Asia with over 10 million users as well. The company, TenCent, also created WeChat, an app for free texting, voice messages and video calls focusing on Europe and Latin America. While Facebook still dominates most of Asia, according to this infographic, QZone, Line and Kakao Talk are major competitors for the company. Some even speculate that in 2015, the largest social network will not be Facebook.
Geared mainly towards the Asian market, emoji stickers have also become very prevalent in Asian messaging apps — especially in Line. With the stickers, one can send a wide range of emotions through cute characters (including bears, rabbits, Hello Kitty and more) instead of the original emoticons on Facebook (though they have also adopted stickers onto their interface). Through Line Camera, it is also possible to take and edit photos with more than filters, more than 120 borders (I counted) and have the ability to add stickers and create your own stamps.
Aside from the success of social networks in Asia, there are still downfalls. While Cyworld is immensely popular in South Korea, it was not popular enough for the foreign market. In 2005 and 2006, Cyworld entered into China, Japan, Vietnam and Germany. However, in 2008, it withdrew from the Japanese market and closed its operations in Germany. Cyworld also entered the U.S. market in 2006 and pulled out of the foreign market at the end of 2009. Still, Guido Ghedin points out that, “It’s important to keep in mind that many ‘western’ digital platforms had hard times in penetrating the South Korean market.”
While Facebook and Twitter are large, dominating social media websites, social media networks in Asia have risen very quickly over the years, gaining recognition from people and places outside of Asia. Whether or not they will continue on will be determined in the future, of course, but I don’t see them getting out of the international market anytime soon and feel that we should at least consider and try out the apps — I’ve been very happy with Line and KakaoTalk so far!
You can reach Jenny by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.