In the countdown to Apps World Asia (September 1-2, Singapore) we speak with Tak Miyata, senior vice president of global business at Mixi, the fast-growing and number one social network in Japan about Mixi’s strategy to expand its communications platform, enable third-party developers to make mobile apps for its members and encourage commerce that bridges online (digital) and offline (physical).
Mixi started out in 2004 allowing its users to post photos, share comments and links, and interact on community pages and forums based on themes ranging from recipes to rock-n-roll.
Today Mixi is a full-scale communications platform, with a growing emphasis on mobile and apps. In line with this sharp focus on apps, Mixi enables users to ‘check-in’ via GPS and select from applications around entertainment (games) and communication (tools to enhance the communications experience).
Like most platforms, Mixi is clear about the requirement to actively encourage third-party developers to make apps for its members. In August the company released an Android SDK and has since revealed plans to release an SDK for Apple iOS. (You can find more information by visiting the Mixi Developer Center .)
Mixi by the numbers
With more than 750 active users Facebook may be the leading social network in many countries, but Japan isn’t one of them. That’s a territory that is loyal to Mixi, a fast-growing social network spanning PC and mobile.
According to Tak, Mixi currently counts 24 million registered users and 3 million mobile users, a number that is on the rise.
In fact, Tak reports that “over 70 percent” of total users choose to access Mixi via mobile, reflecting the usage trends we see elsewhere in the world (namely, that social and mobile are morphing).
Little wonder that Mixi is taking steps to encourage third-party development on its platform. Granted, users can access Mixi and the services via the browser (for example, Safari), but the experience offered by a native mobile app (platform-specific) has its advantages.
As Tak puts it: “The situation with the smartphone [is that] the user wants to have high quality in the context of graphics applications which may link to the Android and iOS [platforms.] So we have decided to provide the SDK for Android and iOS [so] application developers can develop games and apps.”
Opportunity for developers
Mixi is one in a long line of companies to release an SDK and encourage developers to get involved. But the big question is: why should developers make apps for Mixi?
Tak took the challenge and offered two answers.
Size: Mixi is hands-down the number one social network in Japan with large and growing base of mobile users.
Monetization: Mixi is Japanese and benefits from the culture (accustomed to paying for goods via mobile) and the infrastructure (designed from the ground up to support and promote operator billing). The pieces come together and allow developers to charge users for apps and implement the models that encourage cross-sell, up-sell and repeat-sell.
Demographics and preferences
Who is the typical Mixi user? Tak says the typical member is young, urban and interested in communicating — non-stop. “We are really strong with the younger generation in their 20s.” In fact, “over 70 percent” of 20-somethings have a Mixi account.
A majority of Mixi users are also young women, between the ages of 20 and 24.
What apps would fly with this demographic? Tak says young women (actually, all Mixi users) would welcome fun games and new ways of communicating. Currently, Tak says, social gaming is the most popular category on Mixi, with users flocking to games around farming, for example.
Another hot area is activities around “check-ins” — particularly since GPS is available and easy for developers to use.
What is on the horizon?
Mixi is eying opportunities in commerce. It’s not a leading category — yet. But it is full of potential.
Tak tells me that Mixi is doing a test pilot now with a convenience store in Japan around coupons. Users receive coupons via Mixi delivered to their mobile phones and can then redeem them at the store. “Online-to-offline is a new category that is very promising on the Mixi platform.”
Listen to the podcast with Mixi’s Tak Miyata [9:13]
Editor’s note: MobileGroove is proud to be a media partner and support Apps World Asia, where you can catch up with Tak (and speakers from companies including Unilever, BBC Worldwide, Singtel. Amdocs, Samsung, Nokia, ShowNearby, buUuk, inMobi, Oxfam and Blackberry).
And, if you can’t make it to show, event organizer Six degrees will bring the show to YOU. App World is coming to New York (November 1-2) and London (November 29-30). You can follow coverage and comments from the event on Twitter (@Apps_World).
Thanks to Paul Skeldon, who assisted in podcast production. Paul runs Videobaby Media – a one-stop-shop for high-quality, entry-level video and audio recording, editing and production for media companies looking to get a foot on the multimedia ladder. MobileGroove theme music courtesy of the inimitable Dan-O, who offers an awesome selection of free royalty free music for production purposes.