November 7, 2006 8:09 AM PST

MySpace Japan makes its beta debut

MySpace has made its first jump into Asian markets with the launch of the beta version of MySpace Japan, a partnership with Japanese telecommunications and Internet giant Softbank.

The partnership, which was made public over the weekend, is MySpace's first. A full version of the service is expected to be launched within several months.

Though it's still in beta, MySpace Japan has already laid the groundwork for some of the promotional efforts that have proven successful with the social-networking site's U.S., Australian and British incarnations. One of these is the "Secret Shows," virally marketed concerts by big-name artists in cities like Las Vegas, Melbourne, Australia and London.

The first Secret Show in MySpace Japan, scheduled for November 15, will celebrate the launch of the site and feature several members of the band Oasis. It's unclear whether the similar "Black Carpet" movie promotions, like the September preview of the hit Borat, will also carry over into MySpace Japan.

But MySpace's foray into Asia may not be as smooth as parent company News Corp. seems to anticipate. For example, it may end up competing head-to-head with Cyworld, a South Korean social-networking site whose popularity has spread to Japan, China and Taiwan. MySpace Japan will also have to contend with homegrown competition such as Mixi, the largest social-networking site by far in the country. That service, which launched in February 2004, caught fire among Japanese consumers rapidly, and by July had garnered more than 5 million members.

Mixi's overall page views also climbed substantially, with monthly page views of about 6 billion in June. That puts it in second place in the Japanese market, behind Yahoo Japan.

Mixi expects to earn 986 million yen (about $8.37 million) in its current fiscal year, up 71 percent from the preceding year, on revenue of 4.79 billion yen ($40 million), a 250 percent increase in revenue. Eighty percent of Mixi's revenue comes from advertisements, the rest from charges to its users for premium options.

If other international MySpace endeavors are any indication, MySpace Japan can expect fairly robust competition. French and German versions, launched in beta in September, have come up against overseas rivals such as Germany's Studivz.net and France's Skyblogs.

Hayashi Sakawa of CNET Japan contributed to this report.

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