Mixi Inc., owner of Japan’s largest social networking service, expects to fend off Facebook Inc. because its website is better suited to domestic users and personal data are more secure, President Kenji Kasahara said recently.
“Facebook’s service emphasizes connection to users overseas, stresses openness over privacy and doesn’t reflect regional characteristics,” Kasahara, 35, whose stake in the company is worth almost $500 million, said in a recent interview in Tokyo. “Our users value a social space that is like a living room — private, comfortable and personal.”
Mixi, whose shares have tumbled 39 percent this year, is adding games and expanding into smart phones to revive earnings after profits fell for three of the past four quarters. Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said in July his company is focusing on expansion in Japan and Russia this year, increasing the pressure on the Japanese company to introduce new features to protect its lead.
Mixi, which began social network operations in 2004, has fallen 71 percent since its initial public offering in 2006. The company competes against Gree Inc. and News Corp.’s MySpace.
Closely held Facebook introduced simpler privacy controls in May and said it was reducing the amount of user information that is publicly available after lawmakers and advocacy groups complained that the service shares too much personal data.
Mixi gives its 22 million subscribers more fine-grain controls over who sees their content, such as allowing the users to disclose information to individual friends, Kasahara said.
Facebook spokesman Jonathan Thaw didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.
Mixi was Japan’s 12th most popular website, compared with Facebook.com’s 18th placing, according to Alexa Internet Inc., a Web traffic-monitoring company owned by Amazon.com Inc. Facebook ranked second after Google Inc.’s search engine in the U.S., Germany, France and the U.K., while topping the list in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The Tokyo-based company earlier this month introduced Zynga Game Network Inc.’s “FarmVille,” Facebook’s most popular game, and is improving tools to help developers make applications for its network. Mixi in September began offering services that match Facebook’s “Like” and Foursquare Labs Inc.’s check-in functions.
Mixi offers a traditional yearend greeting card service with Japan Post Service that allows users to send physical post cards to social network friends. About 3.5 billion postcards were exchanged in the country last year, according to the postal authority.
Mixi users can send Twitterlike messages limited to 150 characters, a service that began in September 2009 and is not available on Facebook.
Facebook’s expansion in Japan may not necessarily lead to a drop in Mixi’s market share. Facebook in October allowed simultaneous sharing of pictures and comments for users that link their accounts to Mixi.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.