|This article relies on references to primary sources. (April 2012)|
|Initial release||18 March 2010|
|Operating system||iOS, MacOS, Android, Bada, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Windows, Nokia Asha|
|Available in||English, Korean, Russian, Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Malay, Arabic|
|Type||Instant Messaging Client|
KakaoTalk (Hangul: 카카오톡) is a free mobile Instant messaging application for smartphones with free text and free call features. It was launched on March 18, 2010 and is currently available on iOS, Android, Bada OS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Nokia Asha and Personal Computer. KakaoTalk currently has 140 million users and is available in 15 languages. The app is also used by 93% of smartphone owners in South Korea.
In addition to free calls and messages, KakaoTalk users can share diverse content and information including photos, videos, voice messages, location, URL links as well as contact information. Both one-on-one and group chats are available over Wifi or 3G, and there are no limits to the number of friends who can join in on a group chat.
KakaoTalk automatically synchronizes the user’s contact list on their smartphones with the contact list on KakaoTalk to find friends who are on the service. Users can also search friends by KakaoTalk ID without having to know each other's phone number. The KakaoTalk service also allows its users to export their messages and save them for future reference.
KakaoTalk began as a messenger service, but has trasformed itself into a platform for the distribution of various third party content and apps, including hundreds of games, which users can download and play their friends through the messaging platform.
Through the "Plus Friend" feature on KakaoTalk, users can follow brands, media and celebrities to receive exclusive messages, coupons and other real-time information through KakaoTalk chatrooms. Users can also purchase real-life goods through the messenger's "Gifting" platform, such as Starbucks coffee or jewelry.
History and company
Kakao Corp is the company behind KakaoTalk (its platform and flagship app), and was founded in 2010 by Beom Soo (Brian) Kim, the former CEO of NHN Corporation (founder of Hangame, which merged with Naver.com to create NHN). Kakao Corp. is based in Seoul, South Korea, and Jae-Beom (JB) Lee and Sirgoo Lee are the current Co-CEOs.
In 2013, Kakao Corp. generated revenue of approximately $200M (USD) through gaming, digital content, mobile commerce and its marketing channels for brands and celebrities.
According to a December 2013 AppAnnie report, Kakao is also the world’s third top publisher by monthly revenue in Google Play. Kakao Corp. is the #1 publisher for iOS and Google Play in South Korea, and KakaoTalk is the #1 app for iOS and Google Play revenue in South Korea. KakaoTalk was nominated for the Most Innovative Mobile App Award at the Global Mobile Awards 2014. Kakao Corp. agreed to buy Daum Communications Corp, to cut costs and save time to jump-start growth and gain a listing in Seoul, South Korea.
Kakao Corp’s full suite of apps include: KakaoTalk, KakaoStory, KakaoMusic, KakaoGroup, KakaoHome, KakaoPlace, KakaoAlbum, KakaoPage, KakaoStyle, KakaoAgit.
In May 26, 2014, Kakao Corp. announced that it has decided to merge with Daum Communications through a stock swap. Once the two firms are combined, a new tech giant is expected to debut, with about 3 trillion won ($2.9 billion) market capitalization, posing an apparent threat to Naver, the nation's biggest portal company.
Company Business Model
KakaoTalk, a free mobile messenger application for smartphones, revealed its first profits of $42 million in 2012 and $200 million in revenue for 2013 With 93% of South Korea's population using KakaoTalk on their smartphones, Kakao Corp. has provided users a large range of services including games and retail commerce.
Kakao Corp. has released more than 10 services in less than three years of entering the mobile market. Starting in 2010 with a "gifting" feature that enabled users to buy gifts and coupons virtually through KakaoTalk and send it to their friends via KakaoTalk. In 2011, Plus Friend was introduced in which users receive messages, announcements, coupons from celebrities and brand name stores. This is a feature which acts as a source of advertisement and marketing for companies and celebrities, since KakaoTalk does not have banner ads. KakaoTalk also features emoticons that web cartoonists draw, may be purchased in the "Item Store". In 2012, Kakao Corp. introduced their gaming system, Playing Game, in which gaming items may be purchased. Kakao also expanded their social networking system by introducing Kakao Story, a mobile photo sharing application. Kakao Style, a fashion trend and retail application, was introduced along with Choco, Kakao's cyber money. With 93% of South Korea's users on KakaoTalk, the free download of game Ani Pang and Dragon Flight, which can only be played with a Kakao Talk account, was deemed "national" games. To maintain simplicity of all provided services, Kakao applications can be purchased and logged in with links to KakaoTalk.
In 2012, KakaoTalk's $42 million revenue is broken down to 67.5% ($31.1M) gaming, 26.2% ($12.1M) advertising, and 6.3% ($2.8M) emoticon sales. In a struggle to beat it's deficiet from 2011, the free mobile messenger application launched gaming, retail, advertising services without banner ads for any of their services. The largest portion of revenue can be generated through games because KakaoTalk's massive social network in the host country. KakaoTalk's method of brand advertisement is demonstrated through advertising channels called Plus Friends, in which users can add the brand as their friend on the mobile messenger. Users will receive content from brands or celebrities as a personal message, instead of banner ads. Companies pay KakaoTalk to create an account (starting prices $20K). Third main source of revenue comes from emoticons that can be purchased within KakaoTalk for $2–3.
Available in 15 languages and used in over 230 countries, KakaoTalk is also evolving as a handy tool for global communication.
On July 26, 2011, Kakao Corp. established Japanese Corp., Kakao Japan and appointed Cha-Jin Park as a representative. According to company officials, KakaoTalk appears to be very actively used in Japan. When a massive earthquake hit Japan on March 11, 2011, KakaoTalk's messaging traffic in Japan surged as millions of people sought to confirm the safety of friends and family. KakaoTalk played an important role as a data network-based communication method; it successfully replaced disabled wired and wireless networks and helped connect the disaster-stricken.
KakaoTalk has targeted countries in Southeast Asia where no dominant mobile messenger service stands. KakaoTalk is forming strategic partnerships in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, as well. In 2013, KakaoTalk began airing TV commercials in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam featuring Big Bang, one of the most famous Korean K-pop stars. In the ads, local celebrities and Big Bang appear together to promote KakaoTalk. In late 2013, Indonesia became the country with the most users of KakaoTalk second to South Korea. KakaoTalk has hit 13 million users and has potential to becoming KakaoTalk's larget market worldwide. KakaoTalk co-CEO, Sirgoo Lee, stated "We grew out user base by more than 25 times in one year, so hopefully, we will continue at that rate." KakaoTalk has tailored their service to the local environment by collaborating with local deisgners and companies to generate "Indonesian-specific content".
In February 2014, KakaoTalk launched for Nokia Asha 500, 501, 502, and 503 devices, expanding its reach to users of a wider audience.
Besides those listed above, KakaoTalk has these additional features:
- Free calls and conference calls (with support for up to five people) called VoiceTalk
- Photo, video, location, and contact information sharing
- Polling and scheduling feature for members in the chatroom
- All data encrypted
- Support for 15 languages
- K-pop & Local Star Friends (Plus Friends)
- Customizable KakaoTalk themes (for iOS and Android)
- No banner ads
- Game platform
- Stickers and animated emoticons
- First mobile messenger to acquire ISO 27001 certification.
- Do Not Disturb 
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