Why Can't Facebook Get More Than 2 Percent of Japan's Web Users?

Facebook has almost 600 million users, yet that’s just a flash in the pan compared to how big it could be.

The social media site is still a mere speck on Japan’s online radar – only 2 percent of the country’s online population uses Facebook in comparison with the 60 percent of Internet users in the U.S. who log on, according to Socialbakers.

Why the disparity? A recent article in the New York Times highlights a few reasons.

First: The competition. Mixi started in 2004, allowing users to post photos, share comments and links and interact on forums. It has more than 21.6 million members, and Facebook earlier this fall introduced the ability to link accounts with the Japanese site.

Social gaming is also a big industry in Japan. The service Gree has nearly 22.5 million users and offers free games on mobile phones. Another gaming platform Mobage-town has more than 21 million users.

Second: Japanese online culture is one of privacy and under-sharing – not this sometimes seemingly narcissistic culture of over sharing we in the states are so used to. “Japanese web users, even popular bloggers, typically hide behind pseudonyms or nicknames,” according to the Times.

In fact, 89 percent of respondents in a recent survey by Tokyo-based MMD Labratory said they were reluctant to disclose their real names online. Whereas other social networking sites in Japan allow for pseudonyms, Facebook insists all users to adhere to their real-name policy. Whenever Japanese users attempt to use an alias or withhold information on Facebook, a message asks for the user’s real name.

Can Facebook adjust its policies within Japan in order to get more users there? What else might the U.S. social network do to broaden its appeal in Asia?

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