Facebook Wins Relatively Few Friends in Japan
Mr. Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old Facebook chief executive and co-founder, may be the man of the moment in the United States and much of the rest of the online world. But here in Japan, one of the globe’s most wired nations, few people have heard of him.
And relatively few Japanese use Facebook, the global social-networking phenomenon based in Palo Alto, Calif., that recently added its 583 millionth member worldwide.
Facebook has stepped up efforts to tailor its service to Japan. A Japanese version of the site, translated free by volunteers, was introduced a few years ago, but the company opened a Tokyo office in February to customize the site for Japan. (Facebook’s Japanese site, for example, allows users to display their blood types, considered an important personality trait here.)
Some users complain that Facebook’s Japanese-language site is awkward to use.
“I don’t want to give it my real name,” Ms. Ueda said. “What if strangers find out who you are? Or someone from your company?” She spoke on the condition that her Mixi user name would not be revealed.
In a 2010 survey by Microsoft of social network use among 3,000 people in 11 Asia-Pacific countries and regions, respondents on average said that only about one-quarter of their friends on social networking sites were close friends. In Japan, more than half of all respondents said that not one of their acquaintances on social networks was a close friend.
Mixi has grown by letting users sign up with pseudonyms, and gives its subscribers fine-tune controls over who sees posts and other uploads. Mixi also lets users closely monitor who has viewed their profiles with a function known as “footprints.”
In contrast, Facebook has insisted that Japanese users adhere to its real-name policy. “Facebook values real-life connections,” warns a message that pops up when a Japanese user withholds information, like the traditional characters used in names. “Please use your real name,” it reads.
“The dangers of too little privacy may be lost in the global Facebook fad, but it’s likely to become a growing problem elsewhere,” said a popular blogger known online as Akky Akimoto, who does not reveal his real name and refuses to be photographed in public. “I’d hate it if people on the street recognize me, without me knowing.”
“The Internet in Japan has not been so closely connected with real society,” he said. “Those other community sites can keep offering the joys of staying remote from real life.”