LINE App: Software Above the Level of a Single Device

LINE is a proprietary instant messaging application initially released for smartphones in June 23 2011, and has since expanded to desktop computers and other mobile phone such as Blackberry, Windows phone and Nokia Asha after its tremendous hit and popularity among 230 countries. In addition to basic text messages, LINE allows users to send images, video and audio message and make free VoIP calls. The company has further launched a platform, LINE Channel which integrates more service and even native apps to provide more fun and enriching user experience.

The great success of LINE can be attributed to the pervasiveness of smartphones and the company’s design strategy: building a “Smartphone-life platform” and an ecosystem (economic zone) by “offering various content and services developed by its external business partners for the 45 million users worldwide.” The concept of “Smartphone-life platform” aligns well with Tim O’Reilly’s web2.0 principle, software above the level of a device.

The principle can be clearly elaborated by Microsoft developer David Stutz in his Advice to Microsoft regarding commodity software, which is cited by Tim O’Reilly as well, that:

Useful software written above the level of the single device will command high margins for a long time to come.

So let’s take a look at 7 awesome practices that LINE has employed to fully utilize this principle:

As mentioned above, LINE was initially designed for smartphones like Android and iOS platforms but soon with its rapid success, the application now is available on multiple operating systems including: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Blackberry, Windows Phone and Nokia Asha with up to 10 languages.

Benefit: allow the app to be accessed anytime, anywhere.

LINE app requires user’s permission to access location data for specific functions such as LINE camera, “Shake it” and QR code scan for adding friends (see picture below), and location sharing with contacts (see picture below). Users can take further social interaction like get direction to where the contacts are or send the location info to another chat. More location aware features like coupons will be released in the near future.

Benefit: Location aware contents is essential for personalization.
Suggestion: Location aware interaction such as QR code coupon or place check-in can make the service more personalised and open up new business opportunity with local business owners.

LINE has successfully turned the mobile into a social platform for instant message, multimedia sharing, and even contents creation through LINE Camera. In attempt to reach a “Smartphone-life platform”, LINE Channel has introduced service and function including: Line Tools, Time Line (Like Facebook TimeLine for status update), LINE Game, LINE Talk Novel, LINE Fortune, LINE Coupon, LINE Sounds Shop and LINE Coin (virtual currency).

Initially, LINE adopted Redis as the app’s primary storage and data structure server and after the integration of Time Line feature, they switched to HBase for accommodating increasing workload and exponential growth patterns such as Time Line data.

The client contact data is stored on LINE server for easy access and data migration to another device, which make the process of synchronization between different devices easier and more efficient.

LINE Camera, LINE Brush and LINE Card allow users to generate and personalise the contents easily with their simple UI and fascinating functions. All the contents can be shared and exported to other app or social media.

LINE features several simple, one-click functions such as “Shake it” to add friends and one-click sharing. The purchase at its sticker shop is nearly one-step as well, despite the process of entering password for Apple account. LINE Camera also features one-click photo sharing on other social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Sina Weibo, Tumblr and etc.

LINE allows users to seamlessly store, access and synchronize data across devices such as smartphones and desktop computer. Though there’s still an issue that only the contact data is stored and can be retrieved from the server while the conversation log is stored in device. Another problem is that once users link LINE app with their mobile phone number, the app can only be activated on one mobile device (PC version is not affected).

Suggestions: In my case, I have LINE installed on both iPhone and iPad Mini, it happened to me so many times that all my conversation data was completely deleted on one device when I activated another one. Though the chat data synchronization between PC and mobile version is quite reliable and real-time, I still wish that I can access the app across multiple mobile devices.The other concern with “Smartphone-life platform” is the accessing speed. Most of the features require a bit long responding time than other apps. For example, a lot of users have been complained about the message sending speed of LINE is not as good as its arch-rival, Whatsapp.

List of references applied in the article:
1. Japan’s Line App Evolves into Platform, Expands into… Um… Everything, Rick Martin, July 3, 2012
2. Line messaging and VoIP app adds ‘timeline’ and ‘home’ features, throws in new platform for app integration, Mat Smith, Engadget, Jul 3, 2012
3. Software Above the Level of a Single Device, by Tim O’Reilly, Nov 28, 2007
4. LINE Storage: Storing billions of rows in Sharded-Redis and HBase per Month, by Shunsuke Nakamura, April 26, 2012
5. Advice to Microsoft regarding commodity software, by David Stutz, 2003