One of the challenges presented by the joint US/Japan/China debut we are planning for ooi is the necessity of keeping our eye on three rapidly evolving markets. Although its time intensive, it is fascinating to observe the differences in each country. As
observed in the
Social Networks, Anonymity, Reputation & Aloha
thread, anonymity is clearly more important in countries such as Japan, Korea and China. The reasons for this relate to culture, comfort and, in the case of China, safety. Another interesting trend is the move toward social networks that incorporate a virtual world such as Japan's
Mero Mero Park
, both of which have seen explosive growth. 90% of South Koreans in their twenties are registered Cyworld users. Recently launched Mero Mero Park, which shot up to half a million users seemingly overnight, provides a rich Flash world in which avatars can interact. Interestingly, 20% of its users are from Taiwan despite the fact the network is not localized to any Chinese locale! Mero Mero's Taiwanese fans are so enthusiastic about the network they distribute Japanese->Chinese cheat sheets to enable navigation of the UI. Cyworld also had a large fan base in Japan shortly after launch. What can we learn from this? Successful CJK networks seem to translate well from country to country. The business SNS space in Asia isn't nearly as far along as it is in the US and Western Europe. Shockingly, LinkedIn still has not localized to Japan, and no serious local competitor has been able to grab significant marketshare. Mixi, which has 80% of the overall Japanese social networking market, is used by some businesspeople, but it is really designed for purely social networkers. Perhaps the importance of "face time" in Japan and Korea will prevent web based business networking from ever taking off the way it has in the US and Europe. Is the same true for China? Thoughts?
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