Yahoo Japan has beaten Yahoo to the blogosphere.
Yahoo Japan, owned mostly by Softbank and partly by Yahoo, on Tuesday launched a test, or "beta," version of Yahoo Japan Blogs, a free service that lets users post blogs and up to 2GB of images, comment on other blogs, and associate their blogs with animated representations of users known as avatars.
"This is a basic community service," said a Yahoo Japan spokesperson who asked not to be named. "Last year there was a blog boom in Japan. Lots of portals have blogs now. So we came in late. But when we start, it will have an impact on a lot of Internet users here."
The launch could have implications for Yahoo users in the United States, too.
Yahoo's Asian blogging services are striking in that they precede any offerings or previews by Yahoo for its flagship portal. And Yahoo's lateness to the blogging game is all the more notable thanks to significant investment by Yahoo's main portal competitors, including Google, MSN and AOL.
Yahoo kept mum about its domestic blogging plans.
"Yahoo has a deep history in the online self-publishing and communications space, and we continually evaluate market opportunities where we can leverage our assets to fill a market need," Yahoo spokesperson Mary Osako said. "We have not made any announcements specific to Yahoo offering blogging services in the U.S. to date."
The Yahoo Japan launch was more writing on the wall signaling blogs' future with Yahoo in the United States, one blogging veteran said.
"My sense is that Yahoo Japan launching this blog network is probably the next step toward Yahoo getting ready to launch blogging in the U.S.," said Susan Mernit, a former vice president in charge of Netscape's Netcenter portal who's now a digital media consultant with 5ive. "With the kind of scrutiny they've given to blogging and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and news readers, it seems like the next step for Yahoo U.S. is to launch a blog service."
Yahoo Japan's blogging site uses technology from Yahoo Korea's blog site, launched in late 2003. But other than the technology back end, the systems are independent. Yahoo Korea is majority-owned by Yahoo.
Yahoo Japan did not set a date for the general launch of the service.