Smartphone users can use the app to make free calls, send no-charge instant messages, and post photos or short videos
Messaging app Line kicks off a dual New York-Tokyo stock listing later Thursday after one of the year's biggest initial public offerings. Here are a few things to know about the chatting service that has taken Asia by storm.
What is Line?
Smartphone and other mobile gadget users can use the app to make free calls, send no-charge instant messages, and post photos or short videos, along with a host of other paid services.
It is a mix of rival messaging service WhatsApp and China's WeChat with a dash of Skype and a pinch of Facebook. Games and a mobile payment service are also on offer.
What has set Line apart so far, and driven its huge success in home market Japan, are the cutesy cartoon "stickers" that friends can send to each other while chatting online. Some are free, some cost a few dollars.
Line's sticker shop sells thousands of stickers, from Hello Kitty pop-ups and Super Mario to Manga and Disney characters. Line's homegrown stable of stickers include sad-face bear Brown and friends Cony, a rabbit, and yellow duck Sally.
Where did it come from?
The service, owned by South Korean Internet giant Naver, launched in 2011 as a tool for people to communicate in the aftermath of Japan's quake-tsunami disaster, which damaged telecom services.
It has since mushroomed into Japan's most popular messaging app and spread across Asia and to some Spanish-speaking countries.
The share sale comes two years after the firm initially announced plans to list that were later shelved, reportedly because of disagreements over the sale between Line and Naver.