The Opaquenes of Japan’s social network systems (SNS)

Opaqueness of Japan’s SNS was a point of discussion at the Next Context Conference. When you use Japan’s social network systems, instead of portrait photographs and real names in Western SNS, in Japan you’ll find that most people use phantasy names and pictures of churches, cats, airplanes, clowns and cartoons instead of passport photographs. Japanese people prefer to keep there privacy intact in this and several other ways. For example mostly you cannot join Japan’s SNS unless you are invited in by a friend, and you can’t join unless you live in Japan (verified by your Japanese mobile email address).

Looks like Western SNS will have difficulties to thrive in Japan’s SNS unless they make some adaptations of their Western functionality for Japan – or unless Japanese people change their preferences.

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Japan’s two worlds: Old Japan vs New Japan

A few days ago the New Context Conference was held here in Tokyo, mainly about social network systems (SNS), top executives including CEO of LinkedIn, Facebook, and some exciting new photo, video conference and e-learning companies discussed market entry to Japan.

Takeshi Natsuno, one of the three key DoCoMo managers who together started i-Mode and arguably started the world’s mobile internet revolution launching i-Mode back in February 1999 gave the keynote discussion. Natsuno shared his very interesting observation, that Japan consists of two markets:

  • new Japan = people below 50 years age and
  • old Japan = above 50 years age

…and having managed i-Mode (today: 48 million paying subscribers) for almost 10 years Natsuno-san is certainly one of the best to know. (Natsuno-san’s main job today is to make Japan’s very cute equivalent of YouTube profitable – read more about this in a future issue of our newsletters).

Actually, you’ll find a similar observation about “old Japan and new Japan” in my presentation entitled “New opportunities versus old mistakes: foreign companies in Japan’s high-tech markets” which I gave some years ago at Stanford University to faculty, students, alumni and silicon valley managers.- (You can view and download the slides of the presentation below.)

Natsuno-san talking at the New Context conference in Tokyo about old Japan, new Japan, the future of the mobile internet, and the mobile industry. Natsuno-san is one of the three inventors of i-Mode.

Takeshi Natsuno speaking at New Context Conference
Takeshi Natsuno speaking at New Context Conference

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