Mixi is a made-in-Japan phenomenon: how did they acquire millions of users, go IPO and keep down Facebook in Japan?
Japan’s biggest social network is called Mixi, launched in February 2004 by the company of the same name. Drawing in one in five web users in the country, Mixi now boasts over 15 million members. The site ranks sixth on Alexa Japan and racks up over 14 billion page views monthly. Google Trends for Websites shows the Japan-focused service attracts more visitors than Bebo on a worldwide basis (about 2.3 million daily, see chart below).
Compared to leading Western social networks, Mixi is rather scarce function-wise (see the screenshot below). However, here are the main country-specific differences why MySpace, Facebook or Bebo don’t stand a chance in Japan:
- Restricted membership to increase the level of safety: Officially, every member must be over 18 years old. Mixi also requires an invitation from a current user and a Japanese mobile mail address to register.
- Blogging and communication as the big ideas: Next to resyndicating external blogs, members excessively write and share so-called “diaries” on the site. Instead of focusing on messaging, status updates and news feeds, Mixi established itself as one of Japan’s biggest blogging platforms. The site also offers more than 2.5 million user-generated bulletin boards.
- Marginal approach to design and structure: It’s almost impossible for users to change the layout and look of the site, which is only available in Japanese. External applications are not allowed. One of Mixi’s most striking characteristics is the scantiness regarding functions and features.
- High level of anonymity: Mixi abides by the preference of Japanese people to generally stay totally anonymous online. The number of members using real names and photos is below 5%. Very important for Japanese users: The so-called ashi ato (footprint) function makes it possible to retrace every visitor on profile pages, improving the feeling of personal security.
- Tailor-made mobile version: Users accessing Mixi’s mobile version have been clearly outnumbering those going through PCs since July 2007 (ratio of pageviews in March 2008: 60% mobile to 40% PC).
– read the rest in my article on TechCrunch: