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Tue, Nov 07, 2006 - Page 10 News List

News Corp and Softbank to launch Japanese MySpace

ONLINE SOCIALIZING The companies look set to announce a 50-50 joint venture aimed at challenging Japanese-language networking sites

AFP , TOKYO

MySpace, the wildly popular US social networking Web site, is to get a Japanese version under a joint venture between media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and local firm Softbank, reports said yesterday.

Los Angeles-based MySpace has exploded in popularity since it was launched in January of 2004 as a hip place to socialize online.

Many Japanese teens and young adults already use the English language version of MySpace and now News Corp is apparently taking aim at popular Japanese language networking sites such as Mixi.

Softbank Corp president Masayoshi Son and Murdoch are expected to meet soon and agree to a deal to create a 50-50 joint venture to operate the site, the Nihon Keizai newspaper and Kyodo News reported without naming sources.

MySpace Japan would be capitalized at around ¥1 billion (US$8.5 million), they said.

Announcement

Murdoch is currently visiting Japan to participate in a conference and according to local media, an announcement on the venture could come as early as this week. Softbank declined to confirm or deny the report.

"We already have a social networking Web site with Yahoo Japan," a spokesman said. "I can't say anything more."

MySpace was bought by News Corp last year for US$580 million and is now a unit of Fox Interactive Media in Los Angeles. It has more than 100 million registered members around the world.

The site, which is free, allows users to post photos and videos as well as maintain blogs, send messages to other members and listen to music online.

Personal computers

The service in Japan will initially be geared toward personal computers but cellphone compatibility is planned for the future, the newspaper said.

The Internet social networking market in Japan now counts an estimated 10 million users plus, with Mixi taking the lead.

Mixi, founded by 30-year-old entrepreneur Kenji Kasahara, has attracted more than 5 million members since its launch in 2004, pulling in a net 10,000 new members daily.

It was floated on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's Mothers Market for start-up companies in September amid a massive wave of interest.

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