Social Networks boom in Japan


Believe it or not, Japan is the country for SNS, Social Network Service(or Social Software).

Long before there were orkut or Friendster, we had a service like Yubi-toma (since ’96) and (since 2000).

And since February 2004, we have started seeing announcements of new SNS almost every two weeks.

Let me present to you some of my favorites.

Before we start talking about the new ones, I’d like to start with the classic:

  • Yubi-toma

    Yubi-toma is a service specializing in finding alumni and old school buddies. In your profile, you would write which school you used to go to. You can see other users who went to same school. You can also call a reunion.

  • is a place where you can find friends via keyword. When you register to this service, you will be given your own space (page). You will add your favorite gadgets, books, movies, foods or any keyword and give it your own version of description. Other people would find you through these keywords, write comments about them and link their own version of keyword to them, etc. etc.

    Aside from meeting new people, I like because I can colorize my page to my heart's content (i.e. visualize what I like). For those who are interested, here is my kanshin page.

Now the new ones:


    From the beginning was inclined more toward entertainment. And maybe that is because the company that runs it, e-Mercury, already have a job finding service called FindJob!

    What I liked the most about mixi is they had their own diary (blog) system. The difference between mixi-blog and regular blog is you can limit the access to your blog to friends or to FOAF (friends of a friend). Many Japanese are too shy (or maybe just too irresponsible for what they write) and they are afraid of having open access to their blog. I believe Mixi-blog’s limited access is a great way for them to start a blog.

    Another great feature of mixi is if you already had your own blog, you would register its RSS address, and voila, mixi will integrate your blog’s headlines into your profile just as if you were using mixi’s own blog system. This feature is so great that it has become standard for ALL the other SNS in Japan as well

    After all blog is much better way to learn someone than just skimming through monotonous profiles.

    Oh, and mixi also has another interesting feature called ‘footprints.’ You can see the log of who has visited your profile (and people have to visit it to read your blog).

  • is a very good tool to introduce your friend to your other friends. Writing your own profile is a ‘MUST’ in every SNS and it is a very tiring process. But asked you to write testimonial (or brief introduction to) your friend as well. This would be a lot of work. But it is worth it. Very often, your friends’ description of yourself are much better illustration of yourself. Today, at, writing testimonial has become much less important option, but I thought it was a great idea.

    With you can also introduce your favorite books, DVDs or anything sell ;-) And exchange comments about each item.

Besides these, we have “Friendmap” which has a more friendlier graphic design, “UUME” which would show the diagram of how you are connected to your friends and “Echoo!” which is a service run by Yubi-toma staff. Echoo! has just started and it is in the very early stage but I believe their strength will be finding school buddies like its sister service, Yubitoma.

Friendster is huge and Orkut is fun, but I believe some Japanese SNS also have very unique, innovative and insightful idea. My biggest concern here is the growing number of SNS. The more services there are, the less interested people would be.

I don’t necessarily think those who started services earlier are better. I want to believe those who have a better service would be appreciated the most and win at the end. But it is also true that people don’t want to repeat the same process of filling up their profile, building friend list, joining same communities and repeating same conversation.

In my next entry, I would like to talk about my own vision of where the SNS should be headed.

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2004年04月14日 | Permalink