Engineering the New Normal

2020.12.21 ALL

• LINE’s Engineers Respond to a Most Unusual Year by Looking to Turn Challenge into Opportunity

The past year has been a challenging one for everyone, including LINE’s international team of engineers. The rise of the Covid-19 pandemic not only caused engineering teams to scramble to learn how to work from home more than ever, but they also created major changes to the technology of LINE — how our technical resources get used, along with spurring demand and creating new opportunities.

Let’s talk to some of our engineers from Taiwan, Indonesia and Korea and learn how they are adjusting to the new work culture of 2020 while also doing what they can to build a safer world. 


In Indonesia, a portal created to fight disinformation

For LINE Indonesia software engineer Immanuel Halim Christianto, the rise of Covid-19 was most worrying because of his family. “I worry about my parents, aunties, uncles and grandparents because they’re more susceptible to the disease,” he said. 

Immanuel also had concerns about how working-from-home might affect productivity, as projects that require heavy collaboration could be more prone to miscommunication. “And indeed, the pandemic forced us to shift to ‘virtual everything.’ We kind of expected that, but we didn’t expect it to be this big,” Immanuel said. “However, despite the massive changes in our person-to-person interaction, I found the working condition to be more or less the same, or even better, because, as a software engineer, our person-to-computer interaction does not change at all.” 


Software engineer Immanuel Halim Christianto

Among LINE Indonesia’s responses to the pandemic was the launch of LINE Siaga, a website and official account created by Immanuel and his team to provide real-time updates by the Health Ministry concerning COVID-19. LINE Siaga offers reliable information about disease statistics, hospital availability, emergency numbers, the latest news and more. 

“Our motivation was first and foremost to calm people and protect them from all the hoaxes and disinformation that’s out there,” he said. “It’s impossible to combat COVID effectively if the public is making wrong decisions due to wrong information.”


When Taiwan ran out of masks

Today, Taiwan is nearly free of Covid-19, but back in February no one knew how the pandemic was going to develop. People were scared, causing a lot of panic buying of surgical masks and making them tough to find. 

In response, the Taiwanese government reacted by posting the locations of where masks could be purchased. And right away, three LINE Taiwan engineers — Julian Shen, Denny Tsai and John Liu — got the idea of creating LINE Mask Map, a feature for the LINE app to allow users to search for and buy masks. 

LINE Taiwan team in a brainstorming session

“In the middle of the night, we made a phone call to our planner proposing to make a mask map for LINE SPOT, then got started immediately the next morning,” said John. “We just wanted help others and make a contribution to society.”

In just two days, LINE Mask Map was ready to go and it quickly made a big difference. Today, Taiwan is recognized as one of the great success stories in the fight against COVID-19, in part because the people of Taiwan took such rapid action. And LINE was proud to be part of the response. 


An opportunity to advance blockchain technology

“I had no idea when Covid-19 appeared that it would turn into such a big crisis,” said Junyong Suh, an engineer at Blockchain Lab, looking back on the year. 

Woosang Son, another engineer in the Blockchain Lab, agrees. “I’ve never experienced a major social crisis in my life,” said Son. “I was quite surprised. And I was worried about my family and children.” 

But while Suh and Son found responding to COVID-19 to be a personal challenge, they also quickly realized that it had positive potential for their digital currency business as people would naturally be more reluctant to handle physical cash. 

“It’s an opportunity for a future-oriented industry like Blockchain to make a big leap,” said Son. 

As the pandemic contributed to a shift toward digital payments around the world, Suh and Son were involved in the launch of LINE’s digital currency exchange BITFRONT in the United States, opening a LINE Blockchain platform to the public, and help LINE’s work consulting on the implementing of digital currencies for several central Asian countries.

Junyong Suh giving a presentation 


Learning to work from home

The other big part of the past year has been learning to work from home. Everyone said they appreciated saving time on long commutes and enjoying the comfort of home. And home offers other advantages, too. 

“Programming is an art form that needs inspiration,” said Immanuel. “In the past, inspiration was locked in to office hours. If I had an idea, I used to wait until tomorrow to do that. But now, I don’t have to wait until tomorrow to go to the office, I can just do it right now.” 

However, home presents other challenges. “You miss the satisfaction you get from non-work factors, like building closeness to colleagues from hanging out outside of the office,” said Suh. “Doing things together, holding events, helps to make company life more joyful and pleasant, not to mention making communications more efficient.”


Looking Ahead to 2021

The past year gave LINE’s engineers ample opportunities to propel their services forward and unlock new ideas and technologies. And in the year ahead, they all said they wanted to use what they’ve learned to take LINE to greater heights than ever.

“After COVID-19 comes to an end, I don’t want to just go back to the past ways of doing things,” said Son. “I hope we can find ways to improve our current strengths and reduce our weaknesses.”