Japan’s newest SNS: keireki.jp

I recently joined keireki.jp, a Japanese social networking service (SNS) launched earlier this month. It’s a neat concept which may interest many in the English blogosphere.

(Disclosure: In a past life I helped the site’s coder-in-chief, Kristopher Tate, get set up in Japan, but I currently have no business relations with his company.)

Keireki is essentially a Japanese version of LinkedIn–a service aimed at professionals who want to expand their network. Unlike the big Japanese SNSs, GREE and Mixi, it is designed to be non-anonymous and (more or less) entirely public. Users are expected to use their real names and employers, although some choose to redact their employers’ names.

There are four components to a Keireki profile:

keireki.jp profile

  1. Keireki (“work history”): Takes up the front page of each user’s profile and lists the user’s current and past jobs and schools in chronological order, just like a Japanese-style CV. Doesn’t have any space for qualifications, hobbies, etc., although those can be included in the “hitokoto” tab (below).
  2. Iitoko (“good points”): The most unique feature of the service. These are short tags added by other users to describe the person’s strong points: “good designer,” “bilingual,” “super hacker,” and the like. Each new iitoko has to be approved by the recipient, and if users agree with an iitoko they can click a link which says “Tashika ni!” (“Certainly!”) to signal their agreement. Clicking on an iitoko produces a list of all users nominated for that particular iitoko. The concept is generally somewhere between a LinkedIn recommendation and a Flickr tag.
  3. Kikkake (“opportunities”/”springboards”): A personal feed very similar to Facebook status updates. Each one-line post can be the basis of a comment thread below it. This appears as a separate tab on each user’s profile, while the main landing page for the site shows the collective kikkake of your connections (again, very similar to Facebook).
  4. Hitokoto (“a word”): The third tab on each profile is a free writing space which the user can fill as they prefer. It supports basic rich text formatting, hyperlinks and images, which puts it several steps ahead of even Facebook and LinkedIn. In practice, users seem to treat this like they treat their “personal introduction” space on Mixi: some write a sentence, while others fill the space with gobs and gobs of personal information, interests and links.

The site is still in alpha and has some minor annoyances: for instance, while it can handle foreign names (in katakana and romaji simultaneously), the order of foreign names often comes out differently in the input field and the final profile, which requires some fiddling. The sign-up process is also unnecessarily clunky and requires a Japanese mobile phone to complete (you have to send yourself an e-mail, then click on a link in your phone to get an access code). Some features are also conspicuously missing: there is no private user-to-user messaging, no RSS, no direct interface to other websites and fairly limited search functionality, but I expect that all of these features will be strengthened in future updates.

With some further development and good marketing, this could make SNS a useful business tool in Japan. I deleted my Mixi and GREE accounts a while ago because both sites seemed to be optimized for frivolity and little else. Keireki has the potential to be a serious platform for businesspeople and creative types to get together.

Keireki is currently invite-only, although several MFT bloggers and commenters have accounts already. It’s also only available in Japanese for the moment.

28 thoughts on “Japan’s newest SNS: keireki.jp”

  1. They must fix the bizarrely Byzantine signup process. You can’t sign up using a blackberry (or an iphone, so I hear) which is the most retarded thing ever.

  2. As someone who has all but sworn off Facebook recently I cant say I am super-excited. I signed up and if it’s cool I will use it. Best of luck to them anyway.

  3. The irony is that the other brainchild of the site’s founder, Zooomr, had the easiest registration system on the web.

  4. The point is probably to keep spammers from making fake accounts, but yes, there must be an easier way to control access.

  5. I like Facebook because it makes it easy to keep in touch with actual friends, helped by my policy of not adding people I don’t actually know. I tried Mixi briefly but it was just too hard to find anyone I know and it was far more of a pain than a pleasure. I’m fairly neutral towards Linkedin. It seems rather useless, but harmless. Keireki.jp seems like an extra crappy version of Linkedin, that combines it’s general pointlessness with the word aspects of Japanese web registration. No thanks.

  6. Re: Twitter. I’m beginning to sort of appreciate it, but still find it generally pretty annoying. I certainly don’t see it as a replacement for Facebook, partly because it does way with even the pretense of privacy from the greater Web, and partly because it’s just so specifically oriented on a single feature (which is also its main virtue). With Facebook I stick to the core functions, messaging, photos, discussion, etc. I basically ignore all applications and other peripheral bullshit.

    I should also add that the only reason I feel like posting to Twitter is really worthwhile is because it also updates my Facebook status at the same time. (although note that the reverse is NOT true-if you update your Facebook status it does not broadcast to Twitter.)

  7. Actually, Roy, you can do some Web 2.0 engineering to have your Facebook status reflected on Twitter automatically, though I’m guessing it might cause a fatal feedback loop and destroy the universe if you try to do two-way updates.

    LinkedIn has some merits. It’s great for freelancers and business owners. I’ve gotten some translation and legal temping offers through it. There are more than a few wackjobs and clueless consultants trolling the “answers” part, but it works pretty well as a networking tool. But if you don’t care about LinkedIn (as an academic, maybe the case), keireki probably won’t offer you much practical benefit, other than maybe the ability to do background checks on random Japanese acquaintances.

  8. Joe, thanks for your excellent write-up. I wanted to clear-up a few things.

    Registration is a little bit clunky, but we’re always working on making it easier — we’re going to be launching the mobile site soon (along with rss, direct messaging and other needed features) — but the registration process is the way that it is for two reasons:

    1) we want to make sure that people can’t create lots of fake accounts
    2) when we launch the mobile site, having users’ mobile device ids allows us to log them in automagically without entering any usernames or passwords.

    Working hard on it — looks like keireki is going to be very fun going forward.


  9. LinkedIn is also good if you want to scam people into giving out their contacts, which a number of supposed headhunters are doing. There is some utility in making it one’s online CV, especially if you’ve gotten yourself into one of those massage trains where people write obsequious blurbs to recommend one another. And there is a Q and A for different industry related questions, which takes in elements of Yahoo! answers.

    Adamu, I too am surprised that you’d be so salty towards Facebook, yet heavily using Twitter. But hey, de gustibus non est disputandum.

    As for keireki, the problem I have is that it’s the last one to arrive. I’m already maxing out my grey matter trying to keep up with work mail, home mail, Facebook, mixi, etc. etc. that I simply don’t have the bandwidth to screw around with something new, especially when it’s in its alpha phase. I would like to see if it hits a tipping point or not, because I think further developments and user feedback will give us a picture of the ways Japanese want to use their SNSs, and the utilization (or lack, perhaps) of keireki.jp will add an interesting twist in the Facebook-mixi dichotomy.

    Curzon: Totally unrelated, but I was able to register using an iPhone.

  10. Kristopher,

    You have to do something about the name ordering to allow the user to determine the order of first and last names. For a second I felt like I was opening an account at a Japanese bank…

  11. The fact that my Shinsei bank card has my name, in Alphabet, first name first, totally confused the woman who was taking my credit card application last month. (Card arrived today btw.)

  12. I attribute 90% of the banking problem to the fact that gaijin cards show the last name first, without indicating which word is the family name.

    But yeah, for the moment, you have to input your name backwards at keireki in order to have it come out right-side up. This is probably just a bug as I know the developers were proud to support multilingual names…

  13. >Keireki has the potential to be a serious platform for businesspeople and creative types to get together.

    creative types; that’s where I think it should do well (with some minor features added of course) and the 起業家 style venture people.

  14. But here’s the big question: What does or may Keireki.jp offer that a Japanese translation of Linkedin could not?

  15. “gaijin cards show the last name first”

    Actually, this differs per municipality. My high school and current cards show my name the same way, but the one I had in Uni showed it reversed, and without my middle name.

  16. Roy: This article (recently tweeted by Durf) might answer your question. Both Facebook and LinkedIn have been blowing off proper localization in favor of “crowd-sourced” translation, which ends up creating a product that seems unnatural to a foreign-language audience.

    Besides that, I think a Japanese audience would never want to participate in a foreign SNS, even if it were properly localized, unless it had a large Japanese-language community already. Even if LinkedIn’s menus were all available in Japanese, the profiles and discussion groups would not be. I could see Keireki someday merging into LinkedIn once it reaches critical mass, with an option to cross-link profiles or something. That’s probably part of their long-term business plan.

  17. Yeah, I’m putting something together to post today on the LinkedIn kerfuffle. I did a short piece on the Facebook translation approach at one point, too.

    Keireki.jp has that new website smell and is properly shiny in the Web 2.0 way, but I won’t predict smashing success for it. I do hope it does well because having more options is always better, but the early adopters in Japan are the web-savvy folks who are most likely to already be using things like LinkedIn, English interface and all.

  18. A crowd-sourced translated will definitely hurt Linkedin more than Facebook, although it really would benefit Facebook to at least have a professional work on the major foreign language versions. I can see the benefit of the crowd-sourced model for the dozens of smaller languages that aren’t as likely to make them money.

    But then why is Facebook still succeeding in almost every country aside from Japan? I don’t see why, for example, Farsi speakers (and we’ve learned this week how many of them use Facebook) would be perfectly happy using a poorly translated interface where Japanese wouldn’t, except of course the Japanese already had Mixi and the already passe Gree to work with. The only significant factor I can see is the lack of anonymity.

  19. “Actually, this differs per municipality. My high school and current cards show my name the same way, but the one I had in Uni showed it reversed, and without my middle name.”

    I don’t believe that’s the case. My card says BERMAN ROY MARSHALL, as did my previous one and the one before that, all issued in Kyoto, and not even all by the same ward office.

  20. BTW, I recall Google used to have an option to sign up and volunteer to translate its interface into your language, if it wasn’t one of the major ones that they already covered.

  21. I finally registered with keireki just to look at it, and so far I’m pretty unimpressed. All I see so far is a competent but vastly incomplete clone of the most bare-bones functionality of an SNS like linked-in, with an above-average annoying registration procedure and no particular virtues. They even decided to take the stupid idea of auto-registering the company founders as your default acquaintances, which is actually one of the most irritating things about the highly irritating Myspace, both because of “Tom”‘s smug mug, but particularly because it made it inconvenient to tell instantly if you actually had some indirect connection with a particular user. Worst of all, I don’t even see a way to delete one’s account, although I certainly would expect that to be added before any public release.

    I don’t want to be overly harsh, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a beta. It’s a solid proof of concept, but considering how tiny the feature set is and the lack of any original ideas, at this point I’d call it little more than that.

    I do like the way it displays name furigana though. It reminds me that I’ve thought for years now that the next version of HTML should really include some kind of actual furigana tag as part of the standard.

  22. How do you get furigana to show up at all? Can’t find a field to input the kana reading anywhere.

  23. I gave up when the signup asked for my keitai email. I only give that out to friends, it’s a privacy issue.

Comments are closed.