Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

April 2008 Archives


In January, my company Digital Garage invested in Twitter and announced plans to work together with Twitter to create a Japanese version of the service. That service just went live.

It's still part of the main Twitter service, but the UI will be in Japanese. One interesting thing that we've done is that we're launching Japan with advertisements. For instance, one of our first advertisers is Toyota which has a Twitter account where they talk about events and products. The ad directs people to their Twitter account where the users can follow that account. Toyota can easily see who their fans are and follow what their fans are saying about them.

Twitter has always been big in Japan. I think it was nearly 30% of Twitter earlier on and has gone to about 13% as the US user base has grown. However, according to Twitterlocal, Tokyo is still the biggest Twitter city.

It's interesting that Twitter is so popular in Japan. It didn't even work properly in Japanese when it launched. (You had to put a Latin space at the end of any Japanese post to make the Japanese appear properly.) Also, Japanese mobile phones don't SMS properly with Twitter as far as I know. Still, it got crazy early adoption in Japan from the beginning. One of my theories is that a lot of services in Japan to be either closed or over-featured portals and simple services with good open APIs are not as common as in the US and it attracts developers and users who are sort of sick of a lot of the bloaty Japanese services.

Hopefully, with this Japanese language version launch, we'll see even more adoption in Japan. Congratulations to the teams at Twitter and DG who worked on this. Good stuff.

UPDATE: ustream of Twitter Japan press conference going on now.

UPDATE 2: Post on Twitter Blog.

Oki Matsumoto of Monex sent me another interesting GDP slide supporting the idea that IT is equalizing GDP per capita.

Before the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the GDP share of the world was in ratio to the population of each country.

However, due to the rise of ideologies such as capitalism and communism and differences in technology development have significantly influenced the GDP share over the past 150 years.

Nowadays, thanks to IT that allows high propagation of technologies, as well as the commingling of ideologies, the GDP share is moving back to what it had been before the Industrial Revolution.


I ran into Loic at MIPTV in Cannes where I was giving a talk about Creative Commons. MIPTV is "The World's Audiovisual and Digital Content Market" attended by television and mobile phone content industry people. When we were walking along the beach, Loic did a video interview. I got a bit carried away and blunt in the interview. ;-) Apologies for being a bit rude to the champagne-drinking participants of the meeting.

The conference was focused on commercial content so I was talking mostly about CC in the context of marketing. Obviously, there are many other reasons for CC including free culture, open courseware, research, etc.

Shinsei Bank, one of great success stories in Japan, has always been an example of how legacy companies in Japan can be turned around with good management and smart methods. The "methods" include a great deal of innovation towards simplicity by one of my heros Jay Dvivedi. Jay has been evangelizing his approach to IT which uses mostly open Internet, small, off-the-shelf components and a way of breaking complexity into small pieces. I've sent a number of my friends to Jay to have him share his inspiration, but the methods are so different that understanding and believing that they work often takes more than just a conference room meeting.

We had been discussing various way to try to share these ideas. Virginia A. Fuller and David Upton wrote a case for the Harvard Business Review, which is great, but alas is available only to those with permission to read the HBR.

We came up with the idea to release the methods under a CC license and to try to support universities to create open courseware based on these methods. Jay and I met with the president of the bank, Thierry Porté. He liked the idea and told us to move forward. (Video of Thierry Porté and me on YouTube) This week, the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur announced that it would work with Shinsei Bank to develop courseware based on Shinsei Bank's methods and license them under a CC license.

We are working on other universities as well.

I think that the idea of companies sharing the business practices and methods in the form of courseware is a big win for everyone. It establishes them as the domain experts, allows outsiders to validate and contribute to the methods and helps make any universally applicable "upgrades" become part of common practice very quickly. It allows directly feedback and fast iteration. I think that there will always be a place for business schools and academic rigor, but the Internet-like "rough consensus/running code" style of interaction is much more likely to happen through collaborative courseware development than through just cases analysis.

Hot off the press...

Creative Commons Announces New Leadership, New Funding

San Francisco, CA, USA -- April 1, 2008

Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that works to expand the body of creative work available to the public for legal sharing and use, today announced both a leadership evolution and a major new grant of $4 million from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to support its activities. "Both pieces of news we are announcing today reflect Creative Commons' maturation from a startup into crucial infrastructure for creativity, education, and research in the digital age," said the organization's founder, Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig. Creative Commons celebrated its fifth anniversary last December.

Lessig has announced a shift of academic focus from copyright to political corruption. He recently launched Change Congress, a movement to increase transparency in the US government's legislative branch. In order to concentrate on this effort, Lessig is stepping down as CEO of Creative Commons. He will be replaced by entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and free culture advocate Joi Ito. Lessig will remain on the Creative Commons board.

"Although I have changed my focus, I'm still very much committed to Creative Commons and the Free Culture cause," Lessig said. "The work I intend to do with Change Congress is in many ways complementary to the work of Creative Commons. Both projects are about putting people in power and enabling them to build a better system. I could not be more pleased to hand off the leadership of Creative Commons to the extraordinarily passionate and qualified Joi Ito."

"Under Larry's management, Creative Commons has grown from an inspirational idea to an essential part of the technical, social, and legal landscape involving organizations and people in 80 countries," said Ito. "With it, the organization has grown in size and complexity, and I am excited to increase the level of my participation to help manage this amazing group of people. The Hewlett Foundation has been a major supporter of ours from the beginning and we could not be more grateful for their support going forward into the future."

Founding board member and Duke law professor James Boyle will become chair of the board, replacing Ito, who remains on the board. "Jamie has demonstrated his commitment to Creative Commons from its founding," said Lessig. "He led the formation of Science Commons and ccLearn, our divisions focused on scientific research and education respectively. There is no person better suited to lead the Creative Commons board."

Boyle is optimistic about Creative Commons' future. "If one looks at all the amazing material that has been placed under our licenses - from MIT's Open Courseware and the Public Library of Science to great music, from countless photographs and blogs to open textbooks - one realizes that, under Larry's leadership, the organization has actually helped build a global 'creative commons' in which millions of people around the world participate, either as creators or users. My job will be to use the skills of the remarkable people on our board - including a guy called Larry Lessig, who has promised me he isn't going away any time soon - to make sure that mission continues and expands."

The Hewlett Foundation grant consists of $2.5 million to provide general support to Creative Commons over five years and $1.5 million to support ccLearn, the division of Creative Commons that is focused on open educational resources. "The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has been a strong supporter of openness and open educational resources in particular," said Catherine Casserly, the Director of the Open Educational Resources Initiative at Hewlett. "Creative Commons licenses are a critical part of the infrastructure of openness on which those efforts depend." The Hewlett grant was a vital part of a five-year funding plan which also saw promises of support from Omidyar Network, Google, Mozilla, Red Hat, and the Creative Commons board.

Creative Commons also announces two other senior staff changes. Diane Peters joins the organization as General Counsel. Peters arrives from the Mozilla Corporation, serves on the board of the Software Freedom Law Center, and was previously General Counsel for Open Source Development Labs and the Linux Foundation. She has extensive experience collaborating with and advising nonprofit organizations, development communities, and high-tech companies on a variety of matters.

Vice President and General Counsel Virginia Rutledge, who joined Creative Commons last year from Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, will take on a new role as Vice President and Special Counsel. In her new role, Rutledge will focus on development and external relations, while continuing to lead special legal projects.

About Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 2001, that promotes the creative re-use of intellectual and artistic works, whether owned or in the public domain. Through its free copyright licenses, Creative Commons offers authors, artists, scientists, and educators the choice of a flexible range of protections and freedoms that build upon the "all rights reserved" concept of traditional copyright to enable a voluntary "some rights reserved" approach. Creative Commons was built with and is sustained by the generous support of organizations including the Center for the Public Domain, Omidyar Network, the Rockefeller Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, as well as members of the public. For more information about Creative Commons, visit


Eric Steuer
Creative Director, Creative Commons
eric (at) creativecommons (dot) org

Press Kit

Monthly Archives