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Why isn't Facebook popular in Japan,Russia,China?
4 points by facebookChina 2351 days ago | hide | past | web | 6 comments | favorite
Recently Zuckerberg said that was the case. Jut wanted to see what the HN community feels. User interface? Use-cases? Government interference? Net infrastructure?Culture? < I just made this observation - All these countries seem to LOVE the color Red. Just look at China's flag, japan's flag- and best of all- the former Soviet Union's flag.

Perhaps there are almost invisible cultural cues. TopCoder is incredibly popular in countries of former Soviet Union,China. And what does every coder worth his NaCl on TopCoder, aspire? Becoming a 'RED-RATED' member. And Facebook- is all 'Blue'. 91 % of all Desktops use the ubiquitous Windows 'Blue' login screen. I would go as far to argue that, everything else being the same,'Blue themes' definitely resonates well with Americans. Not sure about former Soviet union/Communist countries. Feel Free to comment/brainstorm/criticize!




(Russia) VKontakte.ru ("in contact") is incredibly popular in Russia (along with odnoklassniki.ru and my.mail.ru). VKontakte is basically a clone of Facebook, which was there long before FB had any russification and it was promoted heavily among universities.

Odnoklassniki ("Classmates") appealed more to older crowd, searching for long lost connections. Moy Mir("My World" my.mail.ru) appealed to younger crowd.

So, we basically have more than enough social networks, Facebook was kind of too late to the party, because most people already had accounts with one of those networks.

BTW. VKontakte is blue. (It's a clone of Facebook)


Thanks for sharing the information! Really weird- when I visit http://vkontakte.ru/ on Chrome, and translate it to English - The site says "Facebook - the most visited site in Russia and Ukraine."


Red is not a uniformly positive colour in any of these countries. For example, in China (and in Japan too, I believe), writing in red is traditionally associated with death threats. And I don't know of any social network using a reddish colour scheme. Closest I can think of are http://mixi.jp/ which uses orange, http://vsetut.uz/ which uses pink, and http://ibox.mn which uses a red bar on a dark blue background. Many popular sites both corporate and social seem to use blue regardless of the country. Vkontakte and Renren are already mentioned. Naizuud from Mongolia (http://naizuud.mn) is another one, for example.

Local social network sites can get a toehold because Facebook or Friendster are not localised in their language, so they start as "clones". But that's just the start. It's stupid to look down on them just because they copied an interface or a few ideas. They grow (and their other local competitors die) because they execute well in their market. E.g. Renren may look a lot like Facebook, but the actual workings of the site are a lot different --- the two most obvious differences being that you can see who visited your profile, and game mechanics play a much larger role (e.g. you get "level up" by logging in for n consecutive days, giving you profile badges and the like). This annoys the living hell out of me, but I'm guessing most of their users like it, otherwise they'd be on another site instead.

Thanks to the Great Firewall, the Renren users don't have the option of going to Facebook, so there's no direct competition there, yet. But local sites can survive against international competitors as long as they execute well. Korean search engine/portal Naver is still going strong, because they continued to come up with strategies to stay ahead of their competition and keep their site as a destination (incentivising user-generated content, entering into tie-ups with local newspapers, putting printed dictionaries and encyclopedias online for free, etc.).

And on the other hand, Korean social networking site Cyworld executed extremely poorly, which is why they are struggling now. Ten years ago I knew plenty of people with Cyworld accounts --- Korean international students I studied with, and even Korean Americans (who couldn't even sign up on their own, but had to use their relatives' citizen ID numbers to sign up!). Then in 2006 Cyworld announced they were going to try to enter into the USA market. But they didn't leverage the existing userbase at all --- instead they created walled gardens for the USA and China which were completely separate from their Korean network. So of course I didn't bother signing up, and neither did hundreds of thousands of other people who all had friends with Cyworld Korea accounts and who certainly would have signed up if it would have connected them to their Korean friends. Oops. (The lack of support for anything but IE didn't help either). And now, all the Koreans who were studying abroad when Facebook started getting big have graduated and are going back to Korea for work (and getting all their domestic friends onto Facebook too).

Mongolia has the opposite story: the local search engines like Haih couldn't come up with any strategy to become profitable and are now defunct. The only feature they offered was Mongolian-language search. Google didn't --- and still doesn't --- handle Mongolian stemming. If you search just for "Ulaanbaatar", you won't find Ulaanbaatarad (in Ulaanbaatar), Ulaanbaatariin (Ulaanbaatar's), etc. But Mongolian stemming didn't make any money for Haih, and they had no strategy beyond "copy Google" (right down to the logo design). In contrast, at least for now, the local Mongolian social networks (Naizuud, Banjig 360, Ibox, etc.) are doing great --- plenty of Mongolians have accounts on Mixi or Facebook, but at least for now they're happy to keep using both the international sites and the local sites. Wonder how long that will last. Interesting times!


Writing in Red, and death threats? A Korean social networking site,which started in 1999 ? So,technically,would this be the first successful social networking site? Nice information and links! From this discussion,I am inclined to the proposition,UI have little to do with popularity in a specific country -It narrows down to features like game dynamics on login, and profile visits, which local sites seem to have done a great job catering to their audience- and that's something Facebook might have a tricky incorporating (Profile visits enabled only for China?? ) Interesting!


coincidence or pattern?


Perhaps it's a coincidence.. This site is supposed to be one of China's popular social network http://renren.com/ ... And you just cant ignore the blue theme! Was just thinking out aloud, hoping to see what HN'ers had to say about Facebook's lack of popularity in those countries




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