With over a billion registered users worldwide, Facebook is the king of online social networking services. In Japan, however, there are signs that its dominance is starting to crumble.
Facebook launched a Japanese version of its website in 2008. Initially, the platform experienced sluggish user growth as it struggled to compete with already established Japanese SNS sites produced by the likes of mixi, Mobage, and GREE. However, after well-known companies in Japan began to use Facebook as a marketing tool, it caught on with the general public and by the end of 2012 had 17.12 million users.
A mere five months later, however, that number has dropped to 13.78 million, a 19.5 percent drop in less than half a year.
Users in Japan, a place famous for its somewhat fickle consumers, have started to post negative comments online indicating they feel the site is becoming obsolete, “Recently, timelines are just full of the same people boasting about their lives, I’ve got no interest in looking at that anymore.” Additionally, LINE, an instant messaging app for smartphones and PCs, is experiencing huge growth in Japan, surpassing 41.51 million users there, and 150 million worldwide since its launch June 23, 2011. “LINE is so easy to use, I’m tired of Facebook, it’s too much of a pain,” said one user.
Talking about Facebook’s future in Japan, one writer knowledgeable about what is happening on the Internet, said, “Facebook will rapidly depopulate this year in Japan. It is said that people grow tired of SNS sites in about three years; that means the large number of users who registered out of curiosity in 2011 will start to decline going forward. People have started to say things like, ‘Having to use your real name doesn’t go over well with the Japanese,’ and, ‘It’s just a place to kind of boast about your real life, which goes against the Japanese character.’ I think the site will see an exodus of users, and only those wanting to interact with foreigners or who have a connection or affinity with something or someone overseas will remain. Presently, Facebook appears to be beneficial in finding employment; however, companies will probably begin to reassess its value from now on.”
Data for Japan at the end of 2013 should tell us whether this is just a temporary decline, or a mass exodus from the clutches of the all-encompassing Facebook network.