I just learned that So-net SNS, one of the largest user generated social networking services will be closing it's business
this year. It seems that So-net and other So-net like 'create your own SNS' services haven't succeeded in Japan.
The problem is that the players of the user generated SNS scene in
Japan are all modeling off of how Mixi works (the largest social
network in Japan). So-net SNS was based off of OpenPNE, a popular
open-source social networking platform that allows you to create social
networks very quickly. Other similar services in Japan also make heavy
use of OpenPNE.
Now anyone who has used OpenPNE knows that it mimics the user interface
and features of Mixi. I'm not saying OpenPNE or Mixi is bad. However
it seems to me that most user
generated SNS services in Japan are either using OpenPNE or are similar
to Mixi. The problem with this is that they don't particularly have a
good interface for niche communities. They are networks that center
around existing friendships rather than discovering new connections.
Yahoo Japan launched their business community off of OpenPNE and is a good example of this. I wrote a blog post
about it and at the time I was really excited to see a possible
Linkedin in Japan. Unfortunately, the community never seemed to have
taken off and I think it's precisely because the solution came before
identifying user needs. After signing up, I was asking myself, now
what? There was no community activity feed, it was really difficult to
navigate and even find a discussion to participate in. In the end, it
was really hard to do what I really wanted to do - network. It's
because OpenPNE models off of Mixi which is a community that centers
around existing friendships. The interface doesn't center around
creating new connections.
In the end, it's the case of companies defining their service based
on existing solutions and hoping it meets user needs. Instead,
companies should identify user needs first and then decide on the