Naver LINE is moving into decentralized finance, or DeFi.
That was the message Unchain CEO Hongkyu Lee presented to the audience of the Buidl Asia 2019 conference in Seoul on Monday.
Expressing his belief in decentralized finance’s potential, Lee said Naver LINE’s blockchain platform, LINK Chain, is focusing on DeFi and mass adoption. The service’s main market would be Japan, where the popular LINE messaging application boasts 80 million monthly users.
A joint venture co-founded by Naver LINE and ICON, Unchain is the company tasked with developing LINK Chain.
Lee shared with the audience LINK Chain’s experience since launching its mainnet last August, including how it issued its own cryptocurrency, LINK, and listed it on LINE’s affiliated exchange, BITBOX.
In May, LINE released the beta version of LINK ME, its mobile cryptocurrency wallet, allowing Japanese users to earn LINE Points as rewards for using DApps such as 4CAST and Wizball.
LINE will launch the official version of the wallet in October. When it does, it will add additional functionality such as social login, KYC and custody. Regarding custody, Lee told CoinDesk Korea that the custody service would allow users to store their private keys. Though custody services often include managing assets for users, he said LINE has no plans to manage user assets. That didn’t stop CoinDesk Korea from noting that you could — if you wanted to — add a lot of financial products on top of a custody wallet, just as banks went from places where you stashed your gold to the deposit and loan businesses they are today.
Lee also stressed that LINE builds cryptocurrency services that comply with national laws and regulations. Since LINE is a listed company in Japan and the United States, the company is very sensitive about legal compliance, he said.
CoinDesk Korea notes that LINE’s application for a license to open its own cryptocurrency exchange in Japan is still being reviewed by the Japanese Financial Services Agency. In the meantime, the company has been keeping a low profile, using points instead of cryptocurrency within Japan. If the company gets a license, says CoinDesk, it’s likely LINE will begin full-scale cryptocurrency operations.
Lee said that LINE plans to release LINK Chain’s White Paper 2.0 in November. The new White Paper calls for a fully public test net to be up and running in 2020, presumably to combat criticism that LINK Chain is centralized since its nodes are run primarily by companies connected to LINE.
Local media reports that LINE plans to release new DApps developed by Unchain and LINE blockchain subsidiary Unblock. Though LINE hasn’t released specifics, the DApps would presumably include services for videos, games, shopping and payments. In particular, the company hopes to graft its blockchain services onto its existing LINE messenger service, allowing users to naturally use blockchain without knowing they are using blockchain.
LINE will also release a suite of developer tools to make it easier for developers to build DApps.
Additionally, LINE plans to announce partnerships with major local and international companies. As LINE’s users are mostly overseas, the company’s major partners are likely to be Japanese or Southeast Asian. Though LINE’s parent company, Naver, is Korean, Korea’s cryptocurrency regulations may make it difficult for the firm to actively collaborate with local entities.
An industry official told News1 that LINE would have an easier time putting together a developer pool given its vast user base. The official also noted that with the Japanese Financial Services Agency likely to grant the company a cryptocurrency business license soon and the Japanese government actively cultivating the fintech sector ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, LINE’s blockchain business was likely to get a boost.