While Facebook's making inroads to the mobile space, Line thinks it can do better by serving up the equivalent of a Facebook page with its new Line@app. A free app and service, though there are charges for certain extras, it's cheaper than its dedicated Line Official accounts that charge a sizeable upfront fee to open as well as a monthly subscription.
Line@ is obviously targetted at smaller businesses or freelancers who can use the service for free, but with a lot of caveats. The service has, confusingly, two different types of accounts. One 'standard' and one 'approved'.
Clean, government-sanctioned businesses only, please
Gambling dens, as well as matchmaking and social escort services (among others) are strictly persona non grata on Line@. "As with LINE, LINE@ prohibits the use of its services for relationship-seeking or encounters with the opposite sex, as well as any other uses that infringe upon the standards of morality and decency."
Funnily enough, Line@ does not allow NGOs, labour unions, non-profits or student organisations aren't allowed to use Line@ 'approved' accounts either but may still use standard accounts.
Why would Line@ be used by small businesses? Its mobile-centric functionality allows easy communication with their customers or fans, with a higher measure of privacy. No phone number needs to be given out - all you need is the business' LineID and you're good to go.
The Line@ account would allow its owners to send up to 1,000 messages to customers/fans per month but to send up to 50,000 messages, there would be a monthly fee of US$50 with an extra US$0.01 that exceed the quota. Sending messages with images with links is a paid plan-only feature.
Line is very popular in Japan, Thailand and Taiwan though it is at present Korean-owned. But it is unavailable in China, where WeChat already offers similar functionality to Line's including a mobile store platform and payment service.
What the company seems to be trying to do is expand its mobile ecosystem beyond just chat and Line@ is pretty much what you would get if Line and WhatsApp had a baby. Now, whether the service will take off is another question altogether. Could Line@ be the mobile answer to Facebook pages? Perhaps it might even inspire Facebook to revamp its frankly unexciting Pages app.