The development of social networking sites over the past decade has been one of evolution. Sites have boomed and busted, battling for number of users by adding features and functions or marketing to different audiences. Despite recent outrage about privacy settings, the clear winner has been Facebook, with over 400 million users, and the success of outside applications on the platform has pushed Mixi, a Japanese social networking site, to create its own set of applications.
Mixi is an invitation-only networking site where users can create profiles. While Facebook and other sites like LinkedIn rely on users creating a more or less accurate online representation of themselves, Mixi users often obscure their identity and avoid posting pictures of themselves. They then participate in Communities and Groups, having discussions about interests (such as fashion trends like “Forest Girls” and “Witch Girls,” as discussed previously) and interacting with friends.
In May 2009, web journal Neojaponisme suggested that the anonymity reflects a uniquely Japanese fear of the Internet (a fear that may have become more understandable to Americans in the past few months), but the recent boom in Facebook-like applications suggests that Japanese users were just using the site for different reasons, most of which didn’t (and still don’t) require complete transparency.
Altogether, applications are divided into five major categories – Entertainment, Communication, Studying, Useful Tools and Classmates. While some of the most popular applications are Farmville clones, like the game Sunshain bokujo (Sunshine Farm), other applications are providing basic feature extentions. Mixi Calendar debuted on May 11 and in three days topped over 1 million users. Although not as robust as the Facebook Event feature, the calendar application lets you create simple event notifications for friends or for everyone. It also takes comments from others. Applications in the final category, such as Dosokai (Class Reunion) and Dokyusei keijiban (Classmate Bulletin Board), allow users to track down classmates on the service.
“Useful Tools” include many apps that are probably familiar to Facebook users. These include Social Library, an app that lets you manage a digital bookshelf and keep track your friends’ reading lists; My Mixi Youtube, an application to share YouTube clips; and Tsunagari mappu (Connection Map), which draws a graphical representation of your friends.
While not an application, Mixi also recently incorporated Twitter-like status updates into its basic template, even taking the same translation of “tweet” as the official version – tsubuyaku, or “to whisper” in Japanese.
And this wouldn’t be a proper blog post about a Japanese trend if we didn’t somehow incorporate underwear, right? Well, Pantsu karenda (Underwear Calendar) offers female users the ability to create digital versions of their underwear and then note the days on which they wear them. The ultimate goal? Become an “underpants princess” and charm the men who “in actuality pay attention to underwear quite closely, strange though it may be.”
Naturally, there is a commercial tie-in. Image, one of the companies that created the app, runs a mail order catalog that sells – surprise, surprise – women’s clothes, and at the bottom of the application there are links to “recommended items” from the catalog. Unfortunately for panty fetishists, all of the underwear on the site appears to be brand new.