Naver subsidiary LINE will soon be launching its own digital currency, Link. Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Despite the bearish market conditions, competition is heating up among Asian internet companies that are vying to enter the crypto network space, with chat app LINE among those leading the way.

A subsidiary of Japan’s Naver Corporation, LINE will soon be launching its own digital currency, Link, in a bid to tap into the fledgling but ever-expanding East Asian “token economy” sector.

The LINE network has a huge following in Japan, Thailand and Indonesia, and an estimated 217 million users worldwide, which translates into a big starting base for a new crypto-currency. The company aims to take Link online on October 16. The token will be used to buy and sell game-related content on the LINE platform and will be run on the app’s own blockchain, Link Chain.

The firm has no plans for an initial coin offering and said it will provide Link tokens to current LINE network customers as rewards. LINE began to move into the industry last month when it announced a new corporate token fund with seed investment already exceeding US$10 million. Link will initially be traded on LINE’s own crypto exchange, BitBOX exchange, which was set up in Singapore in June.

Late last week LINE announced that it “has plans to launch five new decentralized applications (dApps)”, with CEO Takeshi Idezawa adding that “over the last seven years, LINE was able to grow into a global service because of our users, and now with Link, we wanted to build a user-friendly reward system that gives back to our users”.

A billion tokens will be issued, with 800 million available for LINE users and 200 million being held back by the company. The dApps will run in LINE’s own ecosystem and offer reward-based knowledge-sharing and food reviews, which are a big part of social media in Asia. A large portion of LINE users are already using the platform to share pictures of their dining experiences.

Korea’s mobile messaging giant, Kakao, also wants in on the action, and has its own crypto-currency ambitions. Blockchain subsidiary Ground X has plans to launch a platform called Klaytn in the first quarter of next year, powered by its token, Klay. The tokens will be used in a similar method to LINE’s user reward-based system. Klaytn CEO Han Jae-sun said “our goal is to unveil a blockchain service that could be used in real life, and not solely for speculation.”

The crypto space in Asia is heating up and the US could soon find itself trying to play catchup as it ponders the correct regulatory path.