Is Mixi Going to be the MySpace of Japan?

By Neil Vidyarthi 

Facebook continues its siege upon the world population, and with the swagger of a conqueror, launches multi-front assaults on every country from Argentina to Zimbabwe. Taking a look at one of these campaigns, we see that Japan’s Facebook users have doubled in the last year while their previous incumbent champion, the home grown mixi, has started to lose users – 60 million in 2011. Is mixi going to be able to fight off the Facebook assault, or will they have to suffer a brutal defeat and be edged out into oblivion?

One of the biggest differences between Facebook and mixi is that mixi does not emphasize real names. This is an echo of the battle between Facebook and MySpace – MySpace allowed users to use whatever user names they wanted and many accounts were assumed to be doubles or one-time use fakes. Eurasia Review discusses how it’s a different ball game in Japan, though. Japanese users very much value their privacy in a private society, and the ability for a group to connect with one another without any sense of connection to their real lives is valued.

That said, you can’t just ignore 60 million users walking out the door.

When I first tried to sign up for mixi, I failed miserably. You need a Japanese mobile phone number to create an account, and the site is completely in Japanese (of which I have only an intermediate ability). It is not overly welcoming to foreigners, and that means that any Japanese user on the network who wanted to connect with non-Japanese would have no luck. As Japan undergoes radical changes with a young generation more intent on international connections and a country that needs immigrants to keep its country well populated, it makes sense that a wholly international social network like Facebook will be able to make inroads.

For mixi, the decision becomes the simplest human truism – adapt or perish. What do you think they’re going to do?