Mixi – the largest social networking site in Japan

In this post, we are introducing a new major player on the Asian social media scene: Mixi. This minimalist Japanese social media network was launched in 2004 and is already generating more traffic than Amazon Japan. As of May 2008, mixi had over 21.6 million users and an 80% share of the social networking market in Japan.               Mixi’s site design and navigation are extremely intuitive. The homepage displays a selection of your friends, a list of their latest blog posts and photos and the latest news from your communities. Compared to leading Western social networks, Mixi is rather minimalist. However, here are the main differences between Mix and the Western MySpace, Facebook and Bebo:

  • 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.

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