Messaging app Line heads straight into cryptocurrency craze

The currency will reportedly be given to users as a reward for using the app’s services.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
2 min read

The Line Friends Shop in Tokyo's Harajuku district.

Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

There are already cryptocurrencies based on celebrities and memes. Up next is one linked to adorkable bears, bunnies and duckies.

 A popular Japanese messaging app called Line is taking the cryptocurrency bait.


Cute and crypto.

Line Friends

Line said Friday that it will launch a cryptocurrency in September. The company will dole out virtual coins, dubbed Link, as rewards for using Line services or the apps that live on the messaging app. In turn, the user can use Link to pay for goods and services offered by apps on the platform.

"The accelerated development of the crypto economy and blockchain technologies has created a wide range of options for new types of businesses. To keep up with these trends, Line has decided to launch our own cryptocurrency and blockchain network," said Youngsu Ko, CEO of Line Tech Plus, the issuer of Link, in an emailed statement. "Line intends to be a pioneer in the blockchain/crypto field, using our status as a global mobile platform and a listed company to take the initiative with the first cryptocurrency."

It's just the latest company to hop onto the cryptocurrency craze, partly fueled by bitcoin's meteoric rise last year. The hype over cryptocurrency and blockchain-powered, well, anything has led to cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin, based off a meme, and another one for YouTubers and their fans.

Unlike other cryptocurrencies that have gone public, Link won't have an initial coin offering. Due to the lack of regulatory approval, Link is currently available in the US, but not in Japan due to regulatory reasons. Line offers Link Point in Japan instead.

Line is a highly popular messaging app, especially in Asia. It has a series of cute characters called Line Friends that are made into merchandise and plush dolls. There are 108 Line retail stores worldwide, including one in New York's Time Square.

The messaging app has been branching out with other products. In 2017, Line teamed up with parent company Naver, a South Korean search giant, to create an AI platform called Clova, like Amazon's Alexa. Line also partnered with drone maker DJI earlier this month to launch a mini drone that featured Brown, the bear in Line Friends.

First published on August 31, 9:13 a.m. PT.

Corrections on September 4, 6:42 a.m. PT: Link is currently available in the US but not in Japan due to regulatory reasons. 

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