Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.
Mobile messaging apps are putting pressure on Facebook and other social networks in Asia and other markets, but the competition just got a little sharper. NHN Japan — which runs Line, a popular app with more than 100 million registered users — today took Line Band, its Facebook-like private mobile social network, worldwide.
The Android and iOS apps, which picked up five million users within five months of their Japanese debut, take the concept of Line messenger a step further by providing a private space for friends to interact in groups, share multimedia, events and more. Essentially, it’s like a light version of Facebook for mobile.
Bands themselves are private social collections that function like Facebook groups. They include a main messaging board, a gallery — for images, short video and even other documents; it includes MS Office file previews — a chat section and group calendar. A fifth section — ‘members’ — manages new invitations and who is in the Band.
NHN has introduced a series of social network-like features to Line, which is close to Facebook in terms of registered users in a number of Asian countries, but Band branches out to offer a dedicated social experience.
Line Band works pretty effectively in so much that it provides a space for easy and richer interactions with friends. The fact that it is mobile-only right now — Line has a PC-based client, so Band could follow suit — is interesting because the Facebook mobile experience is certainly not as smooth as this.
That makes Line Band a service worth trying for Line users, most of whom are based in Asia, although NHN Japan recently began marketing the app into the US market, where it is endorsed by rapper Snoop
It’s not immediately clear whether Line Band can gain serious traction among Line users, because it requires a separate download and — for now at least — it isn’t directly promoted or integrated into the main Line service.
That’s surely only a matter of time though, given that Line’s fast gaming services are heavily promoted through the messaging app. If Line Band is given similar visibility then it could attract a large portion of Line’s growing 100 million plus user base, and put the heat on Facebook in Asia — which is the US firm’s largest continent of users.
Related: NHN Japan spins off its Line messaging business to focus on its international expansion
Headline image via Line
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