Facebook Launches Places In Japan

Facebook has rolled out a version of its location check-in service in Japan, less than a month after launching Places in the United States.

Japan is the second country after the US to receive the service but it will be branded as Spot rather than Places, a Facebook statement says.

Spot will work on the iPhone through DoCoMo and other smart phones through KDDI Softbank. The usual privacy settings and check-in mechanics apply, though a variety of shops, restaurants and parks are already pre-registered.

It makes perfect sense for Facebook to pick Japan as the next place to launch its location service. Japan is a densely populated island nation, meaning the geo-location data is more readily available than somewhere such as Australia. It’s also a wealthy first-world nation with high mobile penetration and a love of gadgetry. Foursquare has already proved the market for location services in Japan and they did so without pairing up with a local company, like Twitter and Yahoo! did.

On the other hand, the launch is an ambitious one. One challenge that Facebook developers had to face was Japan’s unique mobile network infrastructure – Japan was early to the mobile revolution but the underlying technology is not the same as it is in most other countries today.

Another challenge is that Facebook does not have the advantage of being the dominant player – the service launched in Japan in 2008 but lags behind the dominant Japanese social network Mixi and some estimates even suggest Twitter has higher user numbers in Japan in Facebook. Our figures show that Facebook has 1.38 million users in Japan, while the overall population is close to 128 million. Perhaps combining a location app with a social network will help give Facebook the competitive advantage it needs.