The Opaquenes of Japan’s social network systems (SNS)

Opaqueness of Japan’s SNS was a point of discussion at the Next Context Conference. When you use Japan’s social network systems, instead of portrait photographs and real names in Western SNS, in Japan you’ll find that most people use phantasy names and pictures of churches, cats, airplanes, clowns and cartoons instead of passport photographs. Japanese people prefer to keep there privacy intact in this and several other ways. For example mostly you cannot join Japan’s SNS unless you are invited in by a friend, and you can’t join unless you live in Japan (verified by your Japanese mobile email address).

Looks like Western SNS will have difficulties to thrive in Japan’s SNS unless they make some adaptations of their Western functionality for Japan – or unless Japanese people change their preferences.

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  • Normally I find your posts very informative, but this time, though, I am surprised to find you simply repeat the ‘group-think’ of those criticizing Facebook’s Japanese launch.

    What you describe is Mixi’s strategy, only. It does not apply to all Japanese SNS’s. (Mixi is the only one with an invitation system) While it is the largest SNS, and understanding the factors that made Mixi a success is important, there are much larger issues and opportunities in the Japanese SNS space – and you don’t have to mimic Mixi to take advantage of those opportunities. (OpenPNE as case in point)

    Further to that, Mixi has announced the end of the invitation system, launched OpenMixi as its answer to Google’s OpenSocial, and opened MixiPlatform, their answer to Facebook’s application platform, in beta. Further, Kasahara-san, Mixi’s CEO, has publicly called for connection of real-world events and personal relationsips within Mixi.

    The reality of the Japanese SNS space is that in many respects it is following the lead of western SNS’s, not standing apart.

    However, there are still substantial differences that draw attention: mobile phones are fast becoming the primary access point to SNS’s, the number of SNS users per capita is far below the West and the substantial volume of Japanese blog pages indicates greater participation in blogs than SNS’s (Technocrati ranks Japanese as the number one language of blog pages, world-wide).

    There is nothing ‘opaque’ about Japanese SNS’s. It’s all pretty open – but was is absolutely true is that Japanese SNS users do not desire to be part of a ‘global’ social network. They only want communities that are Japanese focused. MySpace figured this out, and understanding this dynamic is what lead to be so successful here. Facebook is going to have a hard time in Japan because they are using their ‘global community’ as a selling point – which has no play here. (Same is true in Korea and China)

    So, normally, I find your posts insightful and informative, but this time I think there is a much larger story behind.