MySpace and Facebook: Lessons from Japan

Good article on techcrunch.com called Taking social networks abroad – Why MySpace and Facebook are failing in Japan reminds us not to get too caught up in all this Web 2.0 hype and remember some localization and internationalization basics.

Issues like cultural misalignment, lack of localized features, dismal translation quality, wrong platform emphasis, and more, are all covered.  For example, the writer, Serkan Toto laments the lack of optimized versions of MySpace and Facebook for Japanese mobile users:

Millions of Japanese are accustomed to using one thumb, a dialpad and a jog dial on their phones when accessing the web during their commutes to school and work. In this country, the mobile web is bigger than the PC web.

image referenced from Mixi.jp. Rights acknowledged.

And again, we hear about the presence of a local offering that’s holding its own: Mixi

Mixi, the country’s biggest social network, positioned itself as a tool for communicating at a distance through diaries and communities to meet like-minded members. It doesn’t primarily exist to make new friends (poking is restricted) or as a platform for public self-presentation.

A basic reading of the Pew Internet and American Life Project tells us that American boys and girls don’t even use social networking the same way, so why would people in different countries be expected to behave the same, without even a pause for thought?

Why companies continue to make such mistakes amazes me.

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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