Via NFC: Japanese Social Network Mixi First To Let Users "Share" Real-World Items

Japan has always been the land of mobile. As such, it’s no big surprise that the country’s biggest social network, Mixi (JP, 23 million members), sees 25 of its 29 billion monthly page views coming from cell phones. And according to Mixi, it’s now the first social network that lets users share information with friends through NFC technology on Android handsets.

Last year already, Mixi added two functions to its mobile site, which NFC is supposed to boost:

  • Mixi Check In (which works much like Facebook Places)
  • Mixi Check (essentially the same as Facebook’s Share function)

The NFC-powered versions are named “Mixi Real Check In” and “Mixi Real Check”. NFC (Near Field Communication) technology makes it possible to exchange data between devices in close proximity to each other.

Mixi Real Check In allows you to check in to places by tapping their Android phone on an NFC tag in the real world to share your location with your Mixi friends in real-time. These tags, which cost a few cents and can contain any kind of information (i.e. a URL or Twitter handle), can be attached to a wall or poster in a store or restaurant, for example.

As Mixi Real Check In is based on NFC, a GPS signal (which can be weak in certain areas, like underground) isn’t necessary. The tags can also contain information on where exactly the user is located (for example, to broadcast to your friends in which section of a department store the tag was scanned).

Mixi engineer Kyosuke Inoue demonstrates Mixi Real Check In in the company’s HQ in Tokyo:

Mixi Real Check is potentially more interesting: this function allows users not only to share websites with friends but any object in the real world that has an NFC tag attached to it. Tapping or waving the phone near NFC stickers found on i.e. books or posters is enough to share the information on Mixi, in real-time. This could be anything from further information on the products to details on promotion campaigns a brand wants to run on Mixi.

Bringing social functionalities to the real world is a great idea for a social network, but there are two downsides at this point: Mixi users interested in these new functions must own a Nexus S (the only Android device with the necessary hardware for NFC so far) and have Taglet (a special NFC app for Android) installed. The Nexus S isn’t even officially available in Japan currently, which means almost all Mixi users still must wait for the future.