The two largest social networks, MySpace and Facebook, which have become a steady part of youth culture in the West, are yet to make waves in Japan.
In fact, according to a post on TechCrunch, a local social network, Mixi.jp, has beaten both of them, and is currently the 6th most popular site in Japan, while MySpace is way behind at number 95 and Facebook does not even figure in the top 100 list.
It is not as if the Japanese are not inclined towards social networks, but it is essential for these sites to adapt to the social and cultural customs of the region.
If these networks think that whatever is appreciated in Western society will be accepted all over the world they are wrong!
In Japan, for instance, far more importance is given to the community as a whole, than to an individual, and security concerns are very important. Facebook for instance, advocates the use of real names and photographs in their profile, which is not a very welcome idea in Japan.
Also Facebookâ€™s translations leave a lot to be desired and most of the third-party apps on Facebook are useless to the Japanese who are not fluent in English. Another major issue could be the absence of blogs on Facebook, which are a big draw in Japan.
Mixi, on the other hand, has been able to meet the demands of the Japanese culture and hence it is doing very well.
MySpace and Facebook opened up to the Japanese market 3-4 years after their respective launches in the U.S. In the meanwhile, Mixi has had plenty of time to established itself and has now turned into a $1 billion company, unhindered by competition from these international giants.
The absence of mobile optimised versions of Facebook and MySpace on Japanese handsets could also have been yetÂ another cause for their failure, as Japanese consumers use the mobile Web far more than consumers in the US, UK or Europe.
It so happens that Japan has one of the largest online advertising markets in the world, which is incentive enough for these social networks to go out of their way to establish themselves there.