Line launches ‘hidden chat’ to do what Facebook couldn’t – kill Snapchat


Line users who obsessively update the app noticed a new treat today – a Snapchat-like function called hidden chat. Hidden chat can be chosen from the same drop down menu as video chat or phone call.

Currently only available for one-on-one chats, the feature allows users to engage in a private conversation that will be deleted. Each message will be visible for up to one minute and the exact time is adjustable by the user. Text, stickers, and photos are all covered. Video files, however, cannot be sent via hidden chat.

The roll-out seems to be bumpy as the functionality is working smoothly for Android and iOS Line apps in Singapore but not in Japan. The Japanese update acknowledges the feature but the new icon does not appear in the chat screen.

LINE hidden chat

The delete timer can be set up to one minute. Text, images, and stickers shared in a chat can be shared discretely.

Snapchat’s USD$2 billion valuation has made discreet communication the focus of many tech companies recently. Startups like Confide have created their on take on secretive communications. Most notably, Facebook launched a failed Snapchat clone in 2012 called Poke, and has just rejoined the battle this past June with Slingshot.

Facebook faces an uphill battle because it is more social network than messaging service. Slingshot is packaged as a separate app, making user acquisition a tough challenge. Meanwhile, Snapchat at its heart is a messaging service. This is precisely why Facebook has had such a hard time replicating Snapchat. Over a billion users see Facebook as a social network and only 200 million as a messaging service. Line, on the other hand, was sitting at 400 million registered users as of April when its most recent numbers were released. Snapchat, with its 30 million users, may have finally met its match.

We have reached out to Line for comment regarding the rollout of hidden chats. We will update this article as we hear more.

UPDATE: A Line spokesperson confirmed that the hidden chat function has been released in some markets but not others due to “local conditions” (translation ours). The spokesperson further noted that the company has no plans to bring hidden chat to Japan at this time.

See: Line files for IPO on Tokyo and American stock exchanges

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Editing by Terence Lee
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