Chat app Line breaks out of Asia, hits 10 million users in Spain

Line said its simple chat app now has 130 million users worldwide, about a third of which are in Japan

Line, the messaging platform widely used in Japan, is breaking out of Asia and now has 10 million users in Spain, the company said Wednesday.

Line has 130 million users worldwide, of which over 45 million are in Japan. The app has had success in other Asian countries, achieving over 10 million users in Taiwan and Thailand last year, but Wednesday marked the first time it hit that level in a European country.

The chat platform was launched in Japan in 2011 but is owned by South Korean NHN, which runs the popular search portal Naver. Line quickly became a staple in Japan, and the company has been eager to replicate its success in the West.

After noticing an uptick of users in Spain, the company hired celebrity actors Hugo Silva and Michelle Jenner and launched an ad campaign in the country. Line has also experimented with hiring celebrity endorsers in other countries, such as U.S. rapper Snoop Dogg and Korean pop star Psy.

Line is chiefly a group chat platform for mobile phones, although it also offers games and apps for computers in some countries, as well as free Internet calls. In Japan, where it has achieved the most success, it is seen as an easy way to connect with friends across different devices and operating systems, while less intrusive than elaborate social networks like Facebook.

The company that offers the app, also called Line, generates profits by selling "stickers," large icons that can be downloaded and sent as messages. Unique stickers can be bought by users, or are offered for free by advertisers.

Like other chat apps, Line uploads phone book data on mobile phones when it is installed, which has helped fuel its growth and quickly recreated social networks online.

The app's popularity is accelerating. Line announced it hit 100 million users in mid-January, including 42 million in Japan.

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