- Restricted membership: Officially, every member must be over 18 years old. Registration requires a valid Japanese cellphone number, which bars anyone who is not or has not been a resident of Japan.
- Focus on Blogging and communication: 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.
- Minimalist 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.
Clearly, Mixi is vastly different to MySpace and other US social networks. The lack of customization seems odd, but it’s clear that Mixi has more diverse revenue streams. Product recommendations, iTunes integration and paid accounts are all interesting ways to monetize these networks. And while the Mixi model seems difficult to export elsewhere, there’s a certainly a lot to be learnt from it.