On Monday this week, an email was sent to LinkedIn users located in Japan announcing the launch of the Japanese version of the business networking site.
Coming more than eight years after the launch, this has to be one of the slowest localisations of a popular site ever. Digital Garage (the company behind the successful localisation and launch of Twitter in Japan) originally planned to help produce a Japanese version in 2007, although that never came to fruition. There was a new announcement in May this year that Digital Garage was back on the case but there hasn’t been any mention of DG in this latest development so it’s unclear if that’s the reason why we’re finally seeing a Japanese version.
With the delay in launching a dedicated business ‘SNS’ in Japan, a number of companies attempted to launch Japanese equivalents but without the international brand recognition of a site like LinkedIn, they were unable to gain a critical mass. Much more than in western societies, Japanese are reluctant to share personal information in a public forum so the small locally produced sites were never able to gain the necessary trust to get people to sign on. In the absence of a real business social network, facebook has actually become the standard for business social networking in Japan.
With the huge brand recognition and hundreds of thousands of users in Japan already using the English site (a real rarity in Japan) it shouldn’t take LinkedIn long to usurp facebook as the leading business networking site in Japan.
However, having played around a bit with the Japanese interface it’s quite clear that the site is still a real work in progress. Despite having a Japanese version of my profile it continues to show me the English one when I click on ‘profile’. Also, despite putting in my central Tokyo postal code, it’s telling me that I’m in Tokyo outside the 23 wards rather than inside. These are just small things, but they’re the difference between a smooth user experience and one in which the user has to make an extra effort to use it.
Now that they LinkedIn are putting an effort into the Japanese version these kinks will be quickly ironed out. The question will be whether business people in Japan will be willing to share ‘personal’ info such as companies they have worked for and schools they have attended.