What Whatsapp and Tinder got wrong


Technology and Culture influence each other. Different cultures, different customs mean different apps. This is true for chat apps.
And dating.

Chat is Culture

WhatsApp dominates globally. It is the the most popular chat app in 109 countries (2016). (Digital Vision, Joseph Schwartz) But Japanese users prefer LINE. In Japan, LINE succeeds by addressing specific niches.

Japanese like anime (cartoons) and manga (comics). According to the Japanese national television (NHK) more than 88% of Japanese adults regularly read manga. Japanese politicians, such as former prime minister Taro Aso, proclaim their interest in manga publicly.

“Stickers”, sets of colourful emojis, attract users through their creative, sometimes funny, sometimes cute design. “Stickers” are basically animated content. Designers, animators and companies embrace this market leading to a wide variety of genre choices.

LINE also makes use of the popularity of gaming in Japan. The highest grossing apps are mostly games (App Ape Analytics). LINE GAME fuses gaming with LINE’s “social network” app approach. GAME allows its users to play with chat friends. Some of the most popular Japanese app games, such as LINE: PokoPoko, are a part of this service.

LINE’s approach is successful. LINE’s content section which includes LINE MUSIC, PLAY, Manga etc. accounted for 35% of the company’s revenue, a number comparable to LINE’s advertising revenue. (according to LINE)

Dating Differs


  • Data Source: App Ape Analytics, Comparison of three dating apps by MAU (users who accessed the app at least once/month) DAU (users who accessed the app at least once/day) and Possession (users who have the app installed)

Tinder’s Japanese usage mirrors WhatsApp’s case. The dating app has a strong presence in the global market. Its Japanese DAU is also lower than its Japanese competitors’. 

Tappuru Tanjou is a Japanese app which allows users to connect through similar hobbies. Here again the offer is highly “japanised”. Categories such as karaoke, going to hot springs (onsen) and manga cater to the local market.

The concept of dating and the way relationships work, differs. In Japan marriage is still of relatively high importance compared to many Western countries. Deai wa Ikkukuru’s search function allows for an exact differentiation between users aiming to get married, those divorced, those living apart and “it’s complicated”.

Tastes differ as well. Deai wa Ikukuru’s “looks” filter allows users to search for 33 different “Types”: Older Sister Type, Younger Sister Type, Punkrock Type, Little Devil Type… This goes beyond most Western conventions. Comparable categories also tend to be frequently communicated through Japanese mass media.

Chat, Dating, … Localise everything?

No. Popular running apps are the same in Japan as in other countries. Nike+ Run Club and Runtastic are two such examples. Naming comparable domestic Japanese competitors is difficult.

Culture influences the popularity of Japanese apps. Knowledge of culture allows for specialisation opportunities. Running might lack the cultural niches necessary for Japanese competition. Or maybe these niches have not yet been found.

Look for them.
(Yes, You.)

For this article, we used App Ape Analytics.