While most of us use YouTube to upload homemade productions and watch funny cat videos, much of Japan still turns to their domestic video sharing site, Nico Nico Douga.
Yet whereas YouTube sees content from users across the world, Nico Nico Douga has remained primarily an exclusive club for Japanese speakers since it began in 2006. An English language beta website, Niconico.com, was launched in early 2011, but failed to generate interest even among foreign users of the Japanese site, due in part to the separation of Japanese and English videos between two domains.
Perhaps realizing that they’ll never be able to attract a sizable userbase from YouTube, Nico Nico Douga has shifted its strategy away from encouraging original English content to making its Japanese content more accessible to English speakers, replacing the English website with an English interface for the Japanese domain, nicovideo.jp.
The new English interface launched on October 17. Now simply referred to as ”Niconico,” meaning “smile,” the site’s region and language settings can easily be toggled between Japanese, English and even Chinese by using a drop down menu at the bottom of the page.
But even with the new multilingual interface, most—and certainly the best—of the videos on the site are still in Japanese. However, instead of having English-speaking users add their own video, Niconico now seems to consider original Japanese content its main asset and, in an attempt to leverage it, is giving bilingual users tools to translate their favorite Japanese videos into English or Chinese.
The majority of Niconico’s 26 million users are Japanese and it’s likely that most original content to come from the site will continue to be by Japanese creators. But of the few users who are foreign, many have a background in Japanese and are eager to exercise their language skills to become a part of the Niconico community.
Similar to YouTube in America, Niconico has become a hub of internet culture in Japan and has been the launchpad for some of Japan’s most beloved memes and icons, including Hatsune Miku. Fan-led localization of Niconico videos should help tear down the language barrier that has kept many of them hidden to the rest of the world, and do so in a way that is true to the community spirit of the website.
The final, though perhaps most significant, part of Niconico’s revamp is the new video player, “Qwatch,” which was revealed at an event hosted at the company’s live venue, Nicofarre, on October 17.
Qwatch is a huge improvement over the old player in both speed and ease of use, and keeps all of Niconico’s signature features, such as synced scrolling comments and tags, intact.
The name “Qwatch” is a combination of “Q” and “watch,” and was chosen to honor a new collaboration between Niconico and the upcoming animated film Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, known as Evangerion Shin Gekijōban: Q in Japanese.
As a part of the collaboration, Niconico also began hosting the latest trailer for the film and will be streaming all 26 episodes of the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series from October 25 to December 20.
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Interested in building a piece of the English Niconico community yourself? Register at nicovideo.jp, whip out your J-E dictionary and start exploring the site; who knows, you might even uncover the next big thing.
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