Friday, January 21, 2011

Can Facebook Be a Contender in Japan? Probably Too Late.

In Japan, Facebook is small potatoes. In this country, Mixi, Gree and Mobage-town blow Facebook out of the water.

As Asahi Newspaper reports:

Facebook's global membership is about 30 times the size of Mixi's, Japan's largest social networking service, but the tables are turned if you look at Japan membership alone. Mixi has about 20 million registered users, and competing services like Gree and Mobage-town are not far behind.
According to the research company NetRatings Japan Inc., there were an estimated 2.93 million Facebook users in Japan as of last November.
I have three daughters. Two of them do Facebook, Gree and Mixi. The youngest daughter only does Gree. I think it is important that the youngest is not interested in Mixi and only Gree...
Of the two daughter who do Facebook, they told me that they only do it because they are half-American, went to school in the USA, and, as such, their US friends do Facebook. They added comments like they don't have any Japanese friends who do Facebook.
Come to think of it... I only have a few. I have thousands of "friends" who do Mixi.
I have another child who is going to international school here in Japan. I do notice that the mothers of the children of those schools do Facebook, but I haven't noticed my wife doing Facebook with her Japanese friends who reside outside of the "foreign community" in this country. With them she does Mixi.
In my (most possibly confused) opinion, I think it is too late for Facebook in Japan. People over 25 do Mixi; High School kids don't do Mixi and do Gree or Mobage. Why do the younger people all do Gree or Mobage? Because data shows that 98% of all 16-year-olds and up in Japan have a cellphone. 90% of those people do not have a PC.
Services like Gree were built specifically for Japanese young people using cell phones, not PC. This makes them have a massive advantage over a service like Facebook that was built for PC then has to be adapted to cellphone; not to mention the cultural problems that a system created in the USA has to overcome in tackling Japan.
Facebook lost their chance in this country when they first arrived and failed to recognize that this is a cellphone country and that few people have PCs in their homes. It is too late to catch up now.
It is an error that companies from the west have made repeatedly over these last 40 years (think Pepsi Cola, Universal Studios, E-Bay, Pay-Pal, etc...) These companies came into Japan thinking that they could do business the same way they had always done in the west, but they failed.
Now, it's too late for them in Japan. 
I do not see why Facebook thinks they will be different this time. No. I think history will repeat itself again. 


Ira Hata said...

If Apple gets smart and dumps Softbank, the smart phone market will change and Facebook may have a real shot.

Facebook's local success is linked to smart phone sales in Japan. Let's see what happens with Adroid, Blackberry, and the iPhone.

You never know...


Guy Jean said...

Yoron What Japan Thinks just posted the results of an online survey on How Japanese Facebook Users See Facebook

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