How Pixiv Built Japan’s 12th Largest Site With Manga-Girl Drawings (Redesign Sneak Peek And Invites)

Unless you live in Japan, chances are you've never heard of Pixiv. Even if you do live in Japan, unless you are young and really into drawing manga characters, chances are you’ve still never heard of Pixiv. But its 3.6 million visitors a month generate an astounding 2.9 billion pageviews.

According to comScore, Pixiv is the 12th largest site in Japan measured by pageviews, slightly bigger than Facebook in Japan. And that’s just on the Web. Pixiv generates another 900 million pageviews a month on mobile phones. All of this for a site that is stil a pretty barebones image board that up until a year ago required a login to see anything.

Pixiv is about to get a major redesign. When I visited Pixiv on my trip to Japan a couple weeks ago, CEO Takanari Katagiri and his team showed me their plans (see video above and screenshots below). A beta of the new site will be ready around Christmas, but 222 TechCrunch readers can sign up now to reserve their spots (use the code “techcrunch”).

If you like Can.vas, 4Chan founder Moot’s new image and meme-generating site, Pixiv might appeal to you. Moot himself seems to draw inspiration from Pixiv. In the startup’s shrine-like foyer where visitors can draw a portrait of themselves on one of the tiles, Moot had left some evidence that he too had been there.

Drawing is a big hobby in Japan, and Pixiv is a place for people to share their digital drawings. The site has 22 million pictures, with 20,000 to 30,000 new pictures uploaded every day. Nearly all of the pageviews are internally generated by the intensely obsessive community on Pixiv. But the current site is text-heavy. The new design looks a lot like a Facebook feed for illustrations. You can subscribe to other users or friends to see their pictures in your feed, rate them or comment on them, and repost the drawings to your own feed.

Pixiv is moving briskly on its own momentum, riding the subculture of Japanese comics-style illustrations. The company has 50 employees, up from 30 a year ago. It doubled revenues to about $8 million (600M Yen) in its last fiscal year ended in June. Next year, Katagiri expects to do $13 million in revenues, mostly from advertising on the site.