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Twitter is gaining popularity at fast pace, May surpass 2channel, Mobage

6, 26. 2009

   The micro-blog service that started in the United States, "Twitter," is now attracting users in Japan at a fast pace. The service enables chatting-like communications by posting a muttering like "What shall I eat for supper" in 140 or less number of characters. In the United States, President Obama is using it, while in Japan persons like Takafumi Horie, known by his nickname of Horiemon, and Ryuichi Sakamoto are joining in as users. It remains to be seen how wide the service will expand in Japan.

Horiemon, Asashi Shimbun start to use

   The Twitter service was started in the United States in July 2006. The service in the Japanese language began in April 2008. According to NetRatings, the numbers of the Twitter users had numbered 17.08 million in the U.S. and 2.52 million in the U.K. as of the end of April 2009. In Japan, the number went up from 0.2 million in January 2009 to 0.52 million in April. The main reasons for the increase in Japan are that Twitter became known to more people and it became possible to use on cell phones.

   In the United States, it is well known that President Obama and other celebrities are using it. In Japan Horiemon has been using it since June 5, 2009. He first posted, "I started Twitter. What shall I have for lunch," then it gained more than 5,000 followers in one day. He seems to be spending considerable amount of time in Twittering, and, according to the IT journalist Toshiyuki Inoue, he said:

"Just a phrase which I don't think interesting might interest other people. It gives rise to a party spirit."

   Among the media companies, the Asahi Shimbun has started to post information by the account name of "asahi." It "broadcast" the World Cup preliminary match of "Japan vs Qatar" on June 10, 2009. The Asahi Shimbun reporter named "Makki" posted reports, such as "10 minutes to go. Go, ganbare" and "Honda replaced Nakamura. Please decide it." Asahi is expected to link it to the internet site "asahi.com" to post quick news items in the future.

Should be localized to suit the Japanese people

   It still remains to be seen if Twitter will continue to expand in Japan to follow the bulletin board "2channel" or the SNS "mixi." According to Inoue, Twitter gained the popularity in the United States because the Americans had not had before a site where they could conduct discussions by posting short messages or "broadcast" while watching TV. Twitter was something new to them, he said. The reality is that in Japan there already exist many services like Twitter. Some of the examples are the short mail and the live thread of "2channel." For cell phones, there are the "purofu," "mobage town" and "minna no news nikki."

   "There are so many that it's difficult which to choose," he said.

   The users of Twitter will continue to increase in Japan. But to maintain the popularity, it needs to increase the number of celebrity users and to localize the service to suit the Japanese people. It is necessary also to add more enjoyable aspects to it to match the "2channel" or "mobage," Inoue analyzed.

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