Line, the mobile messaging app out of Japan, just hit one million users in Vietnam. This is a big milestone for the company, which has just over 100 million global users, more than half of whom are outside Japan. Line is one of many apps fighting for users across Southeast Asia and the globe, such as Whatsapp and China’s WeChat.
WeChat was recently under attack by local netizens due to Sino-Vietnam tensions, which will have hurt its reputation in the Vietnamese market – and perhaps damaged its user numbers. Another challenger, KakaoTalk from Korea, is still so new that it hasn’t gained major traction – last I heard KakaoTalk was at 15,000 users in Vietnam. It’s safe to say that Line’s three biggest competitors in the country are Viber, Whatsapp, and the locally-made Zalo.
Viber and Whatsapp have dominated Vietnamese texting for over a year now. Being first movers, it makes sense that they’re on top. But with Asian messaging apps coming in with localized and fun animated stickers, it was only a matter of time before the plain-looking Western messaging apps would start to lose ground.
On the other hand, Zalo, Vietnam’s local competitor, now sits at 700,000 users and growing. Next month, we’re bound to see the service hit one million. So it’s down to Zalo versus Line in this nation. Who’s going to win it?
Currently, I think Line is much more pretty – it’s got lots of nicely designed stickers and a slick interface. Zalo’s got some cool features but needs to catch up in terms of UI/UX (it got a new Retina-ready icon last month), but with local support and a cool drawing function, it’s a strong contender. Although Line has a head start, and I may be biased, I think Zalo may prevail.
Note: I use Whatsapp and Zalo mostly. I used to use Viber, but it sucks because it requires users to turn on notifications in order to use. I don’t want to be distracted by annoying notifications, I just need a badge icon.
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