Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

July 2008 Archives

Created a new PGP Key. Find it here. This replaces all previous keys.

Recently I was quoted in the Japan Times in an article about Facebook's Japan launch saying:

The Japan Times
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Japanese Facebook takes Model T approach


Joi Ito, a venture capitalist and CEO of Creative Commons, points out the importance of staying humble and of maintaining the mind-set of a startup. "You need to assume your brand in the U.S. means diddly squat in Japan," he says. "You also need a local partner with an equity stake, unless you're Google and you're willing to spend years and years becoming relevant."

It is REALLY hard to launch in Japan without a local partner. There are many reasons. Foreign brands have very little value in Japan without local promotion.

It is very hard to hire people into fully-owned subsidiaries. Many foreign companies pull out of the market. Japanese companies tend to go public more quickly than US companies. Even when US companies do, often they don't give subsidiary team member any or as much upside incentive. Local partners tend to incentivize local teams and push for local IPOs. Everyone knows this. Even Google had a tough time and are finally getting traction.

Business in Japan, as the stereotype suggests, is fairly closed. Business development in Japan is very difficult without a local partner.

eBay went it alone and had to leave and now don't exist in Japan having lost net auctions to Yahoo Japan and Rakuten. Friendster and now Facebook who have launched "localized versions" are not getting traction. Mixi, the Orkut knockoff with arguably a much clunkier interface, has 10M users and is public.

Infoseek, Technorati, Twitter, Six Apart/TypePad/Vox/Movable Type and other brands that we've helped launch are all doing pretty good in Japan IMHO.

I think the only two non-joint ventured web companies that are doing well in Japan right now are Google and Amazon and both took years and lots of investment to get there.

Spike in Facebook mentions on blogs after localization, but flat again after that

I realize this is tooting my own horn since what I do is set up joint ventures in Japan but I though this chart was interesting in this context.


David Recordon just announced the Open Web Foundation at OSCON. The OWF will be a non-profit organization focused on supporting the development of open, non-proprietary web specifications.

David's slides from his talk

Clearly, the last thing we/I want is yet ANOTHER foundation, but we're hoping that this foundation will reduce foundation proliferation in the long run by making it a home for a number of projects that can be supported with single organization. The key functions of the OWF will be to incubate new specifications, help with licensing and non-assertion agreements, copyright (Creative Commons) for the specifications and community building and management.

We have an interesting list of individuals and companies already on board to support this initiative.

The organization will not compete with existing standards organizations. The focus will be on specifications and on the smaller, faster, more ad-hoc projects that need help sorting out the licensing and copyright issues and hope to feed many of these projects to the standards bodies as they become ready.

If you want to participate, join the OWF discussion group.

Congratulations to everyone who worked to get this started and thanks for letting me tag along. Hopefully, I'll have more to contribute as get going.

Other posts about this:

Brady Forrest
Scott Kveton
Dawn Foster
Open Web Foundation Blog
David Recordon's Blog

Introducing Content Licenses on Google Code

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

By DeWitt Clinton, Google Developer Programs

The Google Code team is pleased to announce the availability of content licenses for projects hosted on Projects owners may now select from either the Creative Commons Attribution license or the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license to indicate the terms under which their non-source code materials may be distributed.

While this may seem like a minor change, it reflects the continued evolution of our mission to support best practices in open source software development. As the open web increasingly relies on protocols and formats that reach beyond source code, we encourage authors to apply an explicit copyright license to the data, documentation, and related media that complements their work.

Please join us in the project hosting discussion group if you have any questions.

Using free and open source software licenses for the code and Creative Commons licenses for the content makes total sense and I'm really happy that Google Code has decided to include CC licenses as a default. Thanks to DeWitt and crew for this.


Google Knol opened today, intended to be a platform for authoritative articles about a specific topics, also known as knols, by a created single author or collaboratively. The default license for a new knol is CC Attribution. A creator can also choose CC Attribution-NonCommercial or All Rights Reserved.

More on the CC Blog.

Max Levchin the Guitar Hero
Max Levchin the Guitar Hero
Sorry I haven't been blogging much. I've been spending too much time talking. There are too many people who I need to catch up on.

My session did go better than I expected and I was happy to finally get to meet Quincy Smith of CBS Interactive who was the moderator for our panel.

I did manage to shoot some photos, but not too many. I've posted them as a Flickr set. If I get any tomorrow, I'll post them as well.

I'm leaving tomorrow morning for SF for a brief visit.

The 4th iCommons Summit is being held in Sapporo, Japan from 29 July to 1 August, 2008. The summit originally started as a gathering of Creative Commons country leads, but had evolved over the years into a global conference of people interested in social, educational, business, technical, creative, legal and other aspects of sharing, collaborative and open models for doing just about everything. I think it is the most interdisciplinary and global meeting of its kind.

The usual suspects will be there. This year, we have substantial participation from Sapporo City and should have interesting cultural programs as well as local Japanese participation.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing everyone next week. Although there's only one week left, it's not too late to sign up and join. If you think Japan's too far away, you're not thinking globally.

I just arrived at FORTUNE Brainstorm: TECH and noticed that they linked to my blog on the site. (Thanks!) However, I'm having some difficulty trying to figure out what to write about or what "voice" to use.

Compared to when I blogged this event back in 2002, there are a lot of bloggers here now. Personally, I blog a lot less. Blogging had become "work" and my blog had begun to attract such a broad audience that I had to write in an increasingly self-controlled and measured voice, which was boring.

Also, the tools have changed. I get more comments on Flickr than on my blog. My Twitter feed possibly has as many readers as my blog.

I probably can't write much about the conference sitting here in my room though, so I better sling my camera and head over.

UPDATE: Twitter feed of the event.


Just uploaded some photos from today's class in a Flickr set.

I am now four 90 minute classes and two days through my total of seven classes and four days for the digital journalism class that I'm teaching at Keio. The students are super-motivated and exceptionally bright and I feel honored to be their instructor. This is the first year of the Keio Graduate School of Media Design. There is something special about the students in any first year of a new school. I find they tend to be slightly weird, bright and risk-taking and always enjoy getting to know them.

Although the class was supposed to be in English, because all of the students are native Japanese speakers, we decided to conduct the class in spoken Japanese.

Because we only have four days together, the students and I are under a lot of pressure to get a lot done in a short amount of time, interestingly similar to the deadline pressure of some kinds of journalism.

The students seem to be willing to put in the effort, most of the students staying well past the end of the class working in their teams. I also notice them active on IM, email and on the web during my "jet lag zone" of 3AM-5AM.

One of the bits of advice that Howard Rheingold gave me for teaching was to quickly divide the group into smaller groups or teams and have them discuss things among themselves. This seems to have worked and I now have four teams working on stories.

It was also interesting watching the class change from heated debate about the issues into a sort of newsroom sort of atmosphere as the projects started to take shape. As I popped from group to group, it was fun watching the discussion dance around between the "big idea", the logistics, the design of the output and the nature of the interaction with the public. It reminded me of the energy in teams working on exciting start up companies.

Although there is some in-class work and discussion, the bulk of the time will be devoted to the team project. The teams are allowed to use any form of technology to research, interview, and output the story. They will also be evaluated on the quality of the interaction with the audience and the ultimate impact that the project has.

The first team is team Kyah!. They are working on the question of the future of search. They have begun their research and scheduling interviews. They have a group blog of the team members and have some information on their Google Sites page. You should be able to add comments both on the group blog and the Sites pages so any feedback or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

The second team is team OCTOPAS. They are working on trying to understand and report on how the rest of the world views Japan. In particular, they are digging into a story that I told about the Croatian Japanophile/Anime community. They are reaching out in particular to Japanophiles, fan-subbers and anime fans. If you fit in this category, I'm sure they'd like your input. Please see their Google Sites page for more information.

The third team is team Sandwich. Sandwich is working on the digging into photojournalism. Current event-wise, they are looking at the coverage of the G8 protests in Hokkaido. They are also trying to understand the impact of technology on photojournalism and how photojournalism might be changing. As far as I know, they are intending to produce some sort of video as their final output format. They've got some of their thoughts on their Google Sites page. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

The last group is group 1Ds. They have decided to focus on the exploring the differences in Digital Media Policy between Japan and the rest of the world. Because they have a native Portuguese speaker on the team, they are spending some of their time focusing on Brazil and have contacted the Ministry of Culture of Brazil to try to get and interview with Giberto Gil. Their notes and progress are on their Google Sites page and would probably appreciate any thoughts you might have.

More later as the projects develop.

Seemsic has just implemented Creative Commons. According to Loic, it was the most requested feature by the users.

The interface looks super-awesome. Great jobs guys and thanks for supporting the commons!

News of Seesmic + CC startles me at 5AM

Loic and Jon Phillips from CC talk

Joi Ito, Chad Hurley and Loic LeMeur Join TechCrunch50 As Startup Judges.

Its hard to believe, but TechCrunch50 is less than two months away. We're knee-deep in the applications right now, and I can tell you it is hard to cull them down. It is really impressive how many good new startup ideas are out there.

Today, we are announcing our latest line-up of TechCrunch50 Experts: Joi Ito, Chad Hurley and Loic LeMeur. They will join Marc Andreessen, Marc Benioff, Mark Cuban, Chris DeWolf, Marissa Mayer, and others on our panel of experts in judging and advising the presenting TechCrunch50 startups.


Michael Arrington
I'd been bumping into Michael here and there on the Net, but recently got to know him in person at FOO Camp. The whole TechCrunch phenomenon has interested me and having met Michael, it continues to be curious and interesting. ;-)

Anyway, I hope to get a chance to get to see a bunch of cool new startups and peer into the inner workings of the Crunch-machine through the process.

Hope to see you all there.


I just got this from Susan Crawford today.

OneWebDay,, is an Earth Day for the Internet that happens each September 22 all around the world. Two years ago, I had fun on OneWebDay making some videos with Bob Pepper in Tokyo.

OneWebDay's theme this year is online participation in democracy, and I plan to use OneWebDay as an opportunity to speak out about the power of the Net to help all of us expand the idea of citizenship and be part of day-to-day democracy.

Who knows where I'll be on Sept. 22. There will be a network of OneWebDay events across the U.S. and around the globe. To catch up with what's happening go to the OneWebDay site, To start thinking about possible actions you can take on 9/22, go to

In addition to Susan being one of the coolest people around, I think OneWebDay is a really important way to remind ourselves that we need to do stuff to keep the Net open and remind everyone about how important the web and the open Internet are for open society.

I'll be participating from wherever I am. I looks like I'll either be in Dubai or Tokyo on the 22nd.

Starting today, I'm teaching an intensive class on Digital Journalism at the Keio University Graduate School of Media Design. Although I've taught courses at trade schools and classes at universities, this is the first real "course" that I've taught at a university. I'm looking forward to it, but am also a bit nervous.

There are eleven students signed up so far, which is fairly small, but probably easier and more fun for me.

The course is packed into a single week, starting with 2 X 90 minute classes for the next three days then a single 90 minute class on Friday. I decided to make this workshop-like and spend the first half of each of the long days talking and discussing and the second half more like a lab where we actually do stuff.

I'm going to spend the first day doing an overview of journalism, blogs and various tools and will try to get the students online and using some of the tools on the first day. I'll divide the students into teams and have each team work come up with a story that they want to work on.

On the second day, we'll focus on researching our stories. I'm going to require at least one online interview with someone so setting that up will also probably happen on this day.

The third day will be focused on producing the story and publishing it. I'll let the students use what ever mix of media they want to use including photography, video, audio and text. I'll also let them choose where and how they want to publish, but I will require some sort of ability for participation of the public. (BTW, this is where all of YOU come in.)

On the final day, I'll have the students discuss and critique their works.

I hope this turns out to be interesting for me, the students and you. I'll be blogging updates here and in other places like Twitter. We're going to be using Google Sites for main page of the class.

If you have any suggestions on stories, tools and other things we should consider, please comment here or on the Google Sites page.

View from my tent

The FOO in FOO Camp stands for "Friend of O'Reilly". That's Tim, not Bill. Anyway, every year, he invites a smallish group of people to Sebastopol to hang out and talk. One problem is that since Tim has a largish group of friends, not everyone gets invited and this sometimes causes hurt feelings. However, I think that there is definitely a maximum size that you can make a meeting like this before it becomes less productive and I think it's just right.

So thanks to Tim and the O'Reilly crew for making tough choices, organizing everything and throwing an amazingly fun and useful meeting.

The last time that I attended FOO was in 2005. I stayed in a hotel nearby and had a great time, but I definitely had more fun this year camping and staying in my tent. If nothing else, the ability to ignore my jet lag and join the 24 hour conversation whenever I wanted was a lot of fun.

Although the sessions were great, catching up with old friends and making ones was the most fun. Also, hearing about the super-secret, face-to-face only stuff was useful too. ;-)

I've posted my images in a Flickr set. I think that the calibration on my laptop is possibly screwed up and doing some of this work in a yellow tent didn't help. I'll try to fix some of messed up colors. Apologies to those who look over saturated.


Radiohead just released a new video for its song "House of Cards" from the album "In Rainbows".

No cameras or lights were used. Instead two technologies were used to capture 3D images: Geometric Informatics and Velodyne LIDAR. Geometric Informatics scanning systems produce structured light to capture 3D images at close proximity, while a Velodyne Lidar system that uses multiple lasers is used to capture large environments such as landscapes. In this video, 64 lasers rotating and shooting in a 360 degree radius 900 times per minute produced all the exterior scenes.

There are more videos and information on the page for this.

Exciting for Creative Commons is that the data (although not the music) used to produce this music video are being made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License on the Google Code site.

The Source code to the software used is being made available under a Apache License 2.0.

This combination of Open Source licenses for code and Creative Commons licenses for data/content is very "good idea".

The code and the data not the music are available on the radiohead Google Project Page.

Thanks to Aaron Koblin (the guy who wrote the code), Radiohead, Warner-Chappell and DeWitt Clinton and his team at Google for taking the lead on this. Awesome video and looking forward to seeing what other people do with the software and data.

Esther Wojcicki

We just announced that Esther Wojcicki has joined the Creative Commons board.

Wojcicki has been a prominent figure in American education. As the leading mind behind the creation of the country's largest high school journalism program, she has won numerous awards, including the prestigious title of Teacher of the Year from the California State Teacher Credentialing Commission. Most recently, she received special recognition for her work from the National Scholastic Press Association.

In addition to being very cool, tremendously wise and a great addition to the board in general, Esther's expertise in the field of education is very important for us as Creative Commons educational initiative ccLearn develops.

Welcome aboard Esther!

TechSummit Video Now Online

Greg Grossmeier, July 9th, 2008

Creative Commons held our first TechSummit at Google last month. This event included an update and overview of Creative Commons technologies, panels featuring other leaders in open digital rights technologies, and a look at the future, including the role of digital copyright registries. If you are curious of who all the speakers were you can still find the list on the TechSummit informational page. Many presenters' slides are also available from that page.

For those that could not attend the Tech Summit can now view the entire event online thanks to Google (who graciously hosted the event for us). There are four 1-hour long videos available and they are broken up by sessions. You can find session topics and presenters on the TechSummit information page.

Video 1:

* Welcome and mini-keynote (Joi Ito)
* Talk: Introduction to ccREL (Ben Adida)
* Panel: Current CC, Science Commons, and ccLearn technology initiatives

Video 2:

* Panel: Digital Asset Management on the web and the desktop
* Talk: Digital copyright registry technology landscape, challenges, opportunities (Mike Linksvayer)

Video 3:

* Panel: Developers of digital copyright registries and similar animals

Video 4:

* Plenary: "Copyright 2.0″ technologies and digital copyright registries: what next?

The summit was a super-useful event for us thanks to everyone who came out and participated. Also, special thanks to Google for sponsoring the event.

The technological infrastructure is exceedingly important for the success of Creative Commons and as it becomes more pervasive, the discussion around standards and interoperability becomes more and more important. We need to make sure we involve as many of the relevant parties as we can and that we try to get things right.

We plan on continue to do these so your feedback on this last one would greatly appreciated and don't forget to sign up for the next one.

Rising Voices is one of the coolest new projects at Global Voices.

Rising Voices, an outreach initiative of Global Voices, aims to help bring new voices from new communities and speaking new languages to the global conversation by providing resources and funding to local groups reaching out to underrepresented communities.


Launched in May 2007 thanks to the support of a Knight News Challenge Award, Rising Voices seeks to empower under-represented communities to make their voices heard online by 1.) providing financial support to outreach projects, 2.) developing a series of participatory media tutorials, and 3.) cultivating a network of passionate citizen media activists to help encourage and support the replication of outreach trainings.

Lead by David Sasaki and Rezwan, the team has done an amazing job in the last year bringing commmunities and projects online.

This is a dotSUB video recapping some of the projects from last year. Please take a look and register and help finish translating it to to your native language if the translation is incomplete.

Congratulations to the whole team.

Solana Larsen and David Sasaki
David Sasaki

Photo by Neha Viswanathan - Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License

Monthly Archives