The rise and fall of mobile messengers

By 정주원
  • Published : Jan 8, 2014 - 15:53
  • Updated : Jan 8, 2014 - 15:53

The success of Kakao Talk, the most used mobile instant messaging service in Korea, has brought forth fast imitators as well as new players offering their own set of features for tech-savvy consumers.

As Kakao Talk and Internet giant Naver’s Line grabbed a large share of the mass market, leaving no room for others to squeeze in and steal their thunder, a number of followers including Joyn, created by the country’s three telecom operators, have quickly lost their potential.

Madsmart’s Tic Toc (acquired by SK Planet) and Daum’s My People also arrived too late to enter the spotlight.

“Besides Kakao and Line, most messengers (that followed) can be basically seen to be struggling,” said an industry source.

Faced with the ever-growing dominance of the two formidable players, a new breed of next-generation mobile instant messaging services is coming out with different tactics, providing wholly unique and tailored services for niche consumers.

Mobile applications such as Between and Dontalk are among the messaging services seeking to create a new market by targeting a smaller group of tech consumers interested in communicating not only comfortably and in a new way, but also in a more protected and private environment.

Value Creators & Company’s Between, co-founded by Park Jae-uk, said that they wanted to create a messaging service for couples seeking privacy in their own mobile space as most existing social communication platforms are too open.

“After learning that people started becoming weary of being forced to communicate with random people connected through services such as Facebook or Twitter, we turned our attention toward creating mobile services allowing exclusive communication between (two) people who actually know each other in the real world,” Park said.

Between, launched in 2011, has more than five million users, and the tech firm plans to introduce more services through the messaging app such as calls and shopping exclusively available for the registered couples, according to the company.

Dontalk, developed by mobile service provider Brinicle and also growing in popularity, is furnished with differentiated chat functions appealing to the younger generation.

“We are seeking to provide a ‘fun’ communication service,” said Sun Woo-yoon, spokesperson for Brinicle’s Dontalk.

“Users can multitask. For example, they can watch a movie or view photos while chatting on the app,” he said.

Dontalk users, which total around 900,000, can take back messages sent to others when the messages are unchecked, and can send so-called “pop messages,” which disappear after a certain time.

Frankly Messenger, which SK Planet has invested in, does not store any data in its system.

“Existing messengers such as Kakao Talk and Line store users’ data including their chats in their systems,” said Lee Gyo-taek, an official of SK Planet.

Photos and messages sent to other users are marked if they have not been checked, and disappear for good 10 seconds after the receiver has seen them.

This way, personal information can be protected and there is no risk of it being leaked by accident or stolen, according to the company.

By Kim Young-won (, Park Hyong-ki (