After a sharp decline of Facebook’s Japanese user base, Mixi’s makeover and an increase in users of smartphone applications such as LINE, many are speculating as to what Japan’s Social Media future looks like.

LINE claims to have 41 million users and some analyses conclude that Facebook is losing its audience to the IM service. However, comparing the visits of a website with user numbers of a smartphone application is not an apple-to-apple comparison.

With reference solely to audience numbers of smartphone applications, Facebook is actually not lagging too far behind LINE as you can see in the following table for March 2013 by Nielsen NetRatings:

1. LINE: 17.1 million

2. Google Play: 16.1 million

3. Google Maps: 14. 2 million

4. Facebook: 14.1 million

5. Google Search: 12.9 million

In addition, Facebook’s recent drop in traffic could in part be explained by recent improvements to its mobile app. This update could be causing users to migrate from the PC to the mobile version.

Mixi Executive Officer Yusuke Asakura said in a recent interview that the platform is also planning on participating in the smartphone market, as it aims to expand its current portfolio of two application to 50 apps.

At this stage it is too early to signpost Facebook as losing out to LINE, as their focus and usage is totally different.

However, two things seem to be very clear:

1) There is substantial ongoing change in social media usage in Japan, which needs to be observed closely in the near future.

2) The competition in the social media smartphone apps market is growing fierce, with more and more players trying to get their slice of the cake.