Posts Tagged ‘Mixi’

2012: The year in social media in Japan

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

LINE graph. Courtesy of NHN Corp.

In terms of Japan’s social media scene, 2012 was without a doubt the year of Line. The free application launched by NHN Japan in mid-2011 was initially created to allow free VoIP calls between Line users. This year it quickly snowballed into something much bigger: It now has an Instagram analogue in Pick, a social dashboard like Facebook, and is starting to pick up where the faltering Facebook Check-in Coupon fell off with its own location-based Coupon app. But one of Line’s most popular features is the ever-changing selection of cute stickers that you can add to text messages.

Line’s growth has been astounding: It reached the 50 million user mark at 399 days – more than twice as fast as both Twitter and Facebook. The most recent numbers, for November 2012, claim 80 million users, 36.5 million of whom live in Japan. The number of users shot past Facebook, which has only a little more than half as many users in Japan, with the number apparently plateauing in the last quarter of the year.

This year did, however, see Facebook edge out domestic rival Mixi, which has been faltering. Last June, Nikkei reported that Mixi’s active users for the month of March were 15 million (out of 27 million registered users). Not too bad, except that page views had dropped by 10 million in the past year – a loss of one-third. Mixi recently partnered with social gaming powerhouse DeNA to create a shared social gaming platform that will be live next year. We’ll see if that is enough to save Mixi – it certainly needs something.

And Twitter? While Japan is a distant third behind the U.S. and Brazil in number of accounts, Tokyo is the No. 2 city in the world for sheer number of tweets, according to a report by Semiocast. However, the same report also showed that Japan had the second slowest rate of new user registration after a flurry of growth last year.

Continue reading about social media in 2012 →

New Japanese tourists: have social network, will travel

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Users post original ideas for adventurous holidays on Trippeace to find new traveling companions

Fancy learning how to ride an elephant in Laos? How about shouting your New Year’s dreams from the top of Ayer’s Rock in Australia? Trippeace, a “social travel service,” is helping a new generation of Japanese travelers make their wildest vacation dreams a reality. Since its launch in August last year, the site has picked up over 20,000 members, over a thousand of whom have taken part in group vacations.

The project is the brainchild of Ian Ishida, a 22-year-old university student, and the idea is to enable young Japanese to experience a different kind of vacation. Members post ideas for a holiday and via Facebook, Twitter or Google+, they can discuss the details with other interested parties. Once a concrete travel plan has been made, Trippeace acts as a travel agent, making all the travel arrangements for participants. With a 10 percent commission on these arrangements, according to an article in Nikkei Trendy, Trippeace had made ¥200,000,000 by June this year.

It’s a remarkable achievement, seeing as this generation of young Japanese is much less adventurous when it comes to traveling abroad than the previous generation. Immigration statistics compiled by the Ministry of Justice show that overseas travel by young Japanese has fallen significantly from a peak in the mid-’90s.

Ishida isn’t the only one to come up with this concept. A similar service called Grvel was launched in December 2011. The name is pronounced “guruvelu,” a mash-up of “group travel.” But although Grvel made a selling point of offering group discounts to users who got together for a proposed trip, the lack of recent activity on the site seems to suggest that the scheme isn’t taking off in the same way as Trippeace. For those who want to cut out the middleman and book trips themselves, Taviko, a service that has been running since 2011, focuses on helping users find fellow travelers for whatever destination they have in mind via Facebook and Twitter. But again, it hasn’t seen anything like the level of traffic as Trippeace.

Canny marketing seems to have contributed a great deal to Trippeace’s success and the website is currently offering to pay the travel expenses of the first group to recruit 100 participants for a trip idea. Ishida is hoping this helps get 100,000 people registered for the service by October this year, with a view to possibly taking the service global in the future.

Today’s J-blip: MUJI to GO game

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Where to?

No-frills houseware emporium Muji‘s new online social game has players moving around a board with the toss of a virtual die to win prizes. The game promotes Muji’s “to GO” line of travel products, so the top prize is a trip, the medium prize is a suitcase and the easy win is a sticker. If you win a sticker online, you can go to a Muji shop with a bar-coded print-out from the game or just flash the winning message from your mobile device. At every step of the way, the game prompts you to post a message to the social network of your choice. The posts are optional, but if you click on everything they want you to click, you may intrigue (confuse?) your friends and followers with announcements like, “You’ve landed on the JERSEY SLIPPERS square!” The game points you to a number of related Muji sites. It’s clean and slick, if perhaps a little sea-sickness inducing.

2011 trends: Social media in Japan comes of age

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

2011 was the year that social media came into its own in Japan. When phones went down on March 11, Japan connected with Twitter, mixi and Facebook in record numbers. Social media went from being a curiosity to a lifeline. Connecting online wasn’t just for the users, either; in 2011, the social media sites started friending each other.

Mixi and Twitter announced a partnership in November, possibly to shore up against a rapidly growing Facebook. With growth spurred by the movie “The Social Network,” Facebook was named the no. 2 “hit product” of 2011 by Nikkei Trendy magazine. While earlier in the year it looked like Facebook was getting left behind by Japan’s own social media sites, a November Nielsen report showed Facebook pulling ahead in the last quarter to surpass Mixi for the first time with some 11 million users. However, Mixi quickly issued a statement saying it actually had about double the 8.4 million active users that Nielsen had reported, since many people access the site from their cellphones, which the Nielsen report didn’t track.

As before, mobile remains a major access mode for online content in Japan. Whether or not Mixi actually feels threatened by Facebook, the tie-up with Twitter suggests it’s watching its back.

In another partnership, Google+ partnered with pop idol juggernaut AKB48 and its regional versions, for a total of almost 90 individual accounts. The performers have swamped the top 100 most popular users list in Japan, leaving only a handful of spots for other idols and Japanese tech gurus.

Two of the largest social networks in Japan are mobile gaming sites. GREE and Mobage Town have over 20 million users each. Mobage Town’s parent company DeNA has been making acquisitions in international markets including China, the U.S. and Chile, again showing the importance of collaboration for social sites.

Continue reading about social media in Japan →

Real New Year’s greetings to virtual addresses

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Last year, people in Japan exchanged some 2 billion New Year’s greeting cards called nengajo (年賀状). As long as they’re marked appropriately and posted in the specially marked mail slots between Dec. 15 and 25, they’ll be delivered to friends, family and business associates nation-wide (by an army of holiday part-timers) on Jan. 1.

WebPO

A middle man between you and your online friends

Technology has taken some of the work out of addressing, writing, stamping and mailing them in the last few years.  Any number of Internet and keitai sites allow exchange of e-greetings by Web mail or mobile phone. Apparently, though, nothing beats flipping through that nice fresh stack of real cards, signed, sealed and delivered on the first day of the year. Now several services are preserving the personal paper touch while taking the work out of addressing them by sending real nengajo via virtual addresses.  Even if you don’t know your online friends’ e-mail addresses — or even their real names — you can send them the cards.

The two main services offering this feature are Japan Post’s WebPO and Net-nengajo. For either one, you select the cards and choose your message online, addressing the card to an e-mail address, social network profile name or Twitter handle.  The service then tells the recipient a card is waiting and asks for a real-world name and address. This goes directly onto the card without ever being revealed to the original sender. Mixi has a similar nengajo system in place for exchanges among its own members.

Continue reading about next-generation nengajou →

Privacy not an issue for geolocation apps

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Facebook have announced that Japan is the second country in the world to receive Facebook Places

Facebook announced that Japan is the second country in the world to receive Facebook Places

This week’s news that Japan is the first country outside the U.S. to to get Facebook Places might have come as a surprise to many. While social networks abound here, online privacy kerfuffles are common and the average Japanese prefers avatars and pseudonyms to real names and identities. Would this nation really embrace an application that broadcasts their movement in the real world?

In case you haven’t heard, Facebook Places is a geolocation app that allows users with GPS-friendly cellphones to “check in” whenever they arrive at a location  – and “check out” when they leave. This effectively makes your movements transparent to your social network online, so you can meet up with nearby friends, if you wish. But Facebook aren’t exactly foisting this app on a hostile market: Similar platforms such as  Livedoor’s Roketacchi (Location Touch), BrightKite and Foursquare have already proved popular here.

However, it seems odd that geolocation software is such a hit, seeing as traditionally personal privacy online is closely guarded in Japan. Google came under a barrage of criticism when they launched Google Street View, with many complaining that private moments and dirty laundry had been unnecessarily displayed online. The upshot was that the company were forced to reshoot its footage at a lower angle – at considerable expense. Privacy is a big issue even among users of social networking services such as Mixi, where many users veil their identity and avoid posting pictures of themselves.

So why the popularity? A recent article in TNW Asia points to the rise in popularity in Western apps, following on from the runaway success of the iPhone, which is now almost as ubiquitous on the streets as Louis Vuitton handbags. If this is the case, does this mean that a Western laissez-faire attitude to online privacy will follow suit?

Perhaps. Or maybe it will be more of an adopt-and-adapt model: Though Japanese are signing up to Facebook in droves, many users are still loathe to use real head shots for their profile picture.  (Many of my Japanese Facebook friends prefer to obscure their faces or put up a photo of an inanimate object instead.)

Those who chose to embrace geolocation services might feel that the benefits outweigh the negatives. This year, for example, DJ Naka_tei made dubious history when he revealed his location in an Akihabara toilet and made a public appeal on Twitter for toilet paper; he was rescued within 20 minutes.  It’s times like these when sacrificing your online privacy is not such a pressing issue.

Mixi helps users socialize with new apps

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

pants

“Underwear Calendar” is one of many new Mixi apps. It lets users design their own underpants and keep a log of what they wear.

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.

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