written by Tsuruaki Yukawa
Bloger in Chief of TechWave
”Our definition of a social networking service (SNS) is one that provides a connection between friends and acquaintances. In our opinion, by this definition, we are the only SNS in Japan,” said Mixi’s president Kenji Kasahara. Mixi’s way of thinking is that, “Tabelog is a relationship graph that connects people that like food. Mobage Town and Gree are relationship graphs for people that like games. It’s more accurate to call them game graphs or virtual graphs.” That’s an opinion that brings about tension in Japan’s major SNS companies.
Infinity Venture Summit (IVS) is one of the few occasions where the heads of Japan’s top 3 SNS companies, Mixi, Mobage Town, and Gree, can meet under one roof. So the opinion above, which served as a mutual warning, kicked off the panel discussion, and set the conference room on fire. At the IVS one year ago, Mixi’s director Akinori Harada made the statement, “we are the only SNS in Japan,” with the same meaning as Mr. Kasahara. Mobage’s Isao Moriyasu, who was in the conference room and heard this, commented, “I am Moriyasu, running a SNS like service.” Gree’s Yoshikazu Tanaka continued by broaching the subject with, “I’m Tanaka, who’s said to have ran an SNS.” The conference room was in stitches at these comments.
After Mixi’s Mr. Harada once again opined that, “we are Japan’s only SNS,” at this year’s IVS, he presented one part of Mixi’s New Open strategy. Upon hearing that, Gree’s Mr. Tanaka asked the acrimonious question, “are you planning to imitate Facebook’s strategy,” bringing the conference room’s laughter. In an interview after that, Mr. Tanaka explained with a smile that, “that was just a gag,” but actually that is probably the case. If it’s really a threatening relationship, they wouldn’t speak as though they are teasing each other in a public place. Also, in the following interview video, at about the 10:15 mark, Mobage Town’s Isao Moriyasu comes by offering a handshake to Mixi’s Mr. Harada saying, “come on, let’s be friends.” It shows that while there is a rivalrous tension, they don’t have a threatening relationship.
▼Real Social Graphs and Virtual Social Graphs
While SNSes has evolved from being merely closed diary sites to sites that provides all sorts of services based on human relationships, the demand for separating the real-life connections with friends and acquaintances from the connections that are just on the Internet through food or games is certainly increasing, just as Mr. Kasahara contends. Users that call the former a ‘real social graph’ and the latter a ‘virtual social graph’ are also increasing.
I am also one of those. I’ve attached my GPS data on my Twitter tweets. Especially when I’m at a cafe or something, killing time by myself, I’ll post my GPS data on a tweet. Actually, I’ve had friends who were nearby and saw that tweet come by a number of times. I’ve also had the experience where a number of friends have quickly gotten together just because I tweeted, “today, I want to go get a drink because I’m tired.” I think it’s become a really convenient era.
On the other hand, for some reason, I also feel a little uncomfortable about telling my approximately 10,000 followers where I am at any given moment. I think I want to separate my real and my virtual social graphs. Accordingly, I can limit my time-log to my real-life friends and acquaintances with Mixi, and organize my online friendships with people that I haven’t met before in real-life using Twitter or Facebook. I’ll only publicize my extremely private information or personal thoughts to my real social graph.
Mixi has grown based on real social graphs. From now on, they will develop even more services based on these graphs. That is Mixi’s New Open strategy. That is possible because they have so many users that are based on real social graphs. They likely said, “we are the only SNS,” in order to explain this advantage. I think that their opinion means that they are the ones that will make it easier to develop services based on real social graphs henceforth.