JAPAN AND THE CREATION OF THE INTERNET SEARCH ENGINE 2
E. Defining the Internet
1. Cultural Context
The global spread of information technology has played a crucial role in the postmodern era of globalization as it is a majorly precondition for intensive worldwide interactions of people and exchanges of goods, information and capital. Information technocrats predict a final convergence of culturally different sectors into one world culture where a standardized information exchange is seamless. However, this is still an illusion as too many non-cultural factors and soft cultural hindrances exist as inhibitors for international association.
Yahoo Japan recently reported that it will use Google technology to run its search engines and search ad delivery system. The decision was arrived at in 2010 by Yahoo Japan. It implies that Internet searches in Japan will be based on Mountain View-based Google’s search engines instead than Yahoo. This is the first time Yahoo Japan is facing competition from another search company. Yahoo, in a bid to cut costs, dropped its search engine and adopted its rival’s technology – Microsoft Bing search engine.
Japan is the third-largest Internet-using population behind United States and China according to world statistics of 2008. According to Japan government’s statistics, the projected market for search-related ads accessed via PC’s would increase by 27% yearly to over $2.3 billion. In Japan, Google and Yahoo Japan are the sole key players of search engine market making up to 80% of the total searches according to Nielsen/NetRatings. Japan is one of the few countries where Google is not on the top of the market. This is because Yahoo distinctively is on the lead with a market share of over 50%.
Japan’s use of technology for entrepreneurial purposes is derailed by perceived cultural barriers. For social networks, local enterprises have limitations for globalization due to language barriers. English is the online lingua franca, yet it is only the first language of 6% of world’s population. Even though it dominates the internet, Japanese and Chinese content dominates the internet and accounts for around a fifth. The Arab speaking population, though, late entrants to online medium have been a rapidly-growing contributor to online web activity in the recent past. This has called the development of translation media such as Worldwide Lexicon WWL project to provide new translation tools.
Using Yahoo technology is constraint by language barriers in Japan. Yahoo Japan is affiliated with US-based Yahoo Inc. The success of Yahoo in Japan is affected specifically by language barriers. This can be explained by use of uncertainty avoidance. Cultures with low uncertainty avoidance are more open to innovations and as such view internet as a new medium of communication. They tend to adopt it freely. The dominance of English language on the internet is due to its origin in the west. The lack of proficiency of English language in some of low uncertainty avoidance cultures explains why they are more positively correlated to the Internet. Differentiating internet usage into its culturally most favored purposes indicates a negative correlation between power distance, and uncertainty distance with business purposes. Because search engine companies derive its revenue and profits from ads that display along with the searches, Yahoo felt short of the viable targets to keep it in business in Japan and instead opted to use Google search engines.
Likewise, search engine business and marketing mostly involve interactions with the audience. Search engines targeting low context culture such as the German require more explicit details and explanations utilizing many illustrations and explanations. Conversely, low context environments such as Japanese and Chinese are based on contextual understanding based on unspoken understandings like the company’s place in the society, their relations with the target, their setting in the industry and maybe its responsibilities towards the environment. Hence, product offerings should be less explicit but more focused on engaging the audience instead of extra detail and descriptions. This is what Yahoo has been trying to offer to the Japanese.
2. Media Influence
a. Search engine rankings
Yahoo is the leader in search engine searches in Japan followed by Google with a combined value of more than 90% of the total market. Other players include local web properties such as Mixi, Amazon, Microsoft, Rakuten and NTT. As 2008 5.9 billion searches were conducted in Japan with Yahoo leading the market with 3 billion searches 700,000 searches ahead of Google Sites. Japans position in the global context is viewed as active. 2008 statistics reveal that Japan ranked second in Asian-Pacific region with more than 61 million searches and almost 6 billion searches second to China with 149 million searchers who conducted 12.8 billion searches.
Mainstream and social media are the two main factors behind Yahoo Japans dominance. The decision to adopt Google’s Mountain View search engines catapulted Yahoo to the limelight as far as search engine business is concern. Yahoo Japan uses Google technology on run its search engines and thanks to media attention, it has gained a sizeable portion of the search engine market since its adoption. The proposed partnership between Yahoo and Google in the US fell apart in 2008. The fallout was as a result of Justice Department’s disapproval received sizeable media attention which in one way or another affected its standings.
Media has undisputedly played a role in search engine rankings, in Japan. Yahoo Japan is the most powerful and influential internet company that has constantly been on the forefront of social media integration. It has managed to tap into the active network of Yahoo shoppers, Auctions and blogs alike. Blogging in Japan especially personal blogging among women is undisputedly high more than any other country. There was the introduction of Overture and AdWords by the two markets giants Yahoo Japan and Google Japan. The introduction was as a result of the realization that mobile search engine advertising and display ads has extrapolated to the mobile platform and hence the need to account it when ranking websites.
Social networks are driving tons of sales for businesses as well as leveraging ranking of websites. Social media have a direct influence on ranking of websites and search engines. An example is that Yahoo Japan have started taking, into account, social media signals to determine websites rankings. The specific thinks that they look for tweets and retweets, shares and likes, +1s in URL and the authority of the user interacting. Social media has a direct relation with search engine rankings in Japan.
b. advertising/marketing – ‘mass rendo’- using keywords at the end of an advertisement to make the search easier on the internet. This is a developing trend with internet advertising.
Mass media are a significant contributor in search engine traffic. The use of new technology is rapidly driving this phenomenon. As Nielsen Wire recently stated, almost 70% of all Smartphone users use them while watching television, listening to radio among other activities. Smartphone sales in Japan as at 2010 was at an all time high of 370% with more smartphones utilized for watching TV among other functionalities. Marketing has adopted a new strategy in Japanese referred to as mass rendo, which aims at driving search traffic from mass media streams such as TV, print and radio. The influence of mass rendo is particularly from TV programs at 64%, followed by TV ads at 35% and WOM at 32.7%. People use keywords from TV ads t search the internet rather than URLs. Internet users often not ask for sites and products and not the best match. They prefer to use keywords rather than URL’s because of language barriers. Most URL is associated with English names such as mycompany.com, and because domains only allow for alphabets and numbers Japanese words cannot bring out the best results hence preference for Japanese keywords to find names and products.
The use of search box in search engines has increased work for SEM agencies trying to secure top position for natural and paid search results. Trending results show that advertisers do not use big keywords, rather, long-tailed keywords are the norm. this is because keywords cannot be too far end of long-tail keywords. Yahoo Japan will display paid search in all keywords irrespective of volume while Google require sufficient volume to display paid search ads. This is where Yahoo obtains a competitive edge.
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