Big shake-up at Mixi: Apps possible, no invitations anymore, kids OK

Today Mixi, Japan’s biggest social network, sent out a press release (J), announcing some of the biggest changes the site has seen in recent months. The company of the same name also held a press meeting today. And they are opening up pretty radically for Mixi standards.
Here are the details:

New age limit

– starting December 10, users aged 15 and up can register on Mixi (the age limit was 18 before)
– it will not be able to look up users aged 15 to 17
– these users will not get to see “inappropriate” display or text ads

Changes in the registration process

– in spring 2009, the invitation system (new users need to be invited by existing members) isn’t mandatory anymore (but will not be abolished completely)
– as under the existing system, self-registered members must acquire another member for Mixi quickly or they will get banned
– a Japanese cell phone number is still needed for confirmation of the registration
– the terms of use will be changed accordingly

Opening up to outside services

– starting December 11, the site will offer “Mixi Appli” (beta), an open service for developers to create apps for the platform (in Facebook style)
– in spring 2009, Mixi will start “MixiConnect”, which provides users’ friends network information to outside services and applications
Mixi didn’t disclose details about the particularly interesting MixiConnect and Mixi Appli initiatives.
The site currently boasts around 16 million members (in a nation of 90 million web users) and seems to have hit a ceiling as far as membership base growth is concerned. Mixi was always known in Japan as being a notoriously closed platform. But this seems to have changed quite significantly now.

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