Two interesting developments in the East Asian Internet scene came up early this July:
Our friends at Web20Asia.com and Asiajian report that Korean Search Giant Naver has opened its new Japanese version to 5,000 beta testers. The company had previously tried to crack the Japanese market but gave up on their first attempt in 2005.
Naver is by far Koreas most popular search engine with way over 70% domestic market share. The company is regarded as a true pioneer in search and developed many concepts that only years later were implemented in Western search engines or portals (Google answers, Yahoo answers, etc.). Chang Kim at Web20Asia.com for example lists universal search - where different types of search results are displayed together on one big screen - as one example. This style of presenting search results is probably most well known to Western users from Jason Calacanis Mahalo.com, where news topics, photos, movies, blogs and user generated content such as from Q&A, discussion board or the answers section is aggregated on one single search result page. Not without a reason is Jason a frequent visitor to Korea (his wife is also Korean) to seek inspirations from the Asian innovators.
What is also noteworthy is the content rich and colorful user interface of Navers Japanese (Korean actualy too) version - much in contrast to global market leader Google. However one could argue that again Naver is ahead of things with Microsoft's only recently launched search engine Bing.com that seems to be inspired by this trend. In summary the fight over the Japanese search market will be thrilling to watch, as it should not be forgotten that its currently not dominated by global market leader Google but by Yahoo Japan. Apart from Google that will continue to fight for market share also number one Chinese search engine Baidu.com had launched its Japanese version in 2007 to kick-off its international expansion. There has not been much news about Baidus success in Japan ever since. However according to an insider the Chinese company has superior search results in at least one category: adult content search. This by the way might very well be the reason the search engines Japanese version is not accessible from China Mainland ...
The second piece of news comes from our friend Gang Lu at Mobinode who first announced that DeNA, the operator of the biggest mobile social network in Japan has entered a tentative agreement to take a majority stake in WapTX, the owner company of the leading mobile SNS Tianxia (天下网) in China.
Tianxia, is the world largest mobile SNS that you have never heard of. It was first brought to our attention by Akio Tanaka from Japanese VC Infinity Ventures at last years Open Web Asia conference. He at that time claimed that the social network had over 30 million registered users, mostly consisting of 16-25 year old students & young professionals located in major Chinese cities. Japanese DeNA, which is also invested by mobile focused Infinity Ventures, among others operates Mobage-town - a mobile social network and virtual world gaming platform. The service has around 13.44 million users in Japan and 18 billion page views per month. You can find more infos about DeNA and its products in the slideshow below and from the proceedings of our recent Geeks on a Plane trip here.