NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile network, has announced a partnership with Twitter (news, site), in which both companies will develop an NFC-based method of following friends. DoCoMo and Twitter are also reportedly developing a service for delivering messages based on location.
While social media in Japan is mostly prevalent through local brands, Twitter is an exception, as Japan is second on the list of countries with the highest percentage of Twitter users. Given this, Twitter is taking advantage of NTT DoCoMo's 58 million domestic customer base to better service this particular mobile market. NTT DoCoMo says it will start including Twitter content in search results for its 50 million i-mode users.
Aside from giving mobile users easy access to Twitter content, DoCoMo is giving subscribers with NFC-enabled smartphones and mobile phones the ability to more easily follow each other through their devices. NFC lets devices interact with each other by tapping the devices together. With NTT DoCoMo's Touch and Follow feature, a user can tap another users's phone for both to follow each other's Twitter accounts.
NFC can actually involve both active and passive devices, which not only include smartphones, but also stickers, tags and other items that users can interact with. This opens opportunities to more applications, such as tapping NFC tags to check into locations.
While NTT DoCoMo has not made a formal announcement, the company is reportedly introducing a location-based service for smartphones that will harvest "masses of tweets" to alert users to events and other location-sensitive information in real time. Through this technology, DoCoMo is also expected to use the information to track consumer behavior for use in marketing purposes.
Location-based services are not new in Japan, as local social networks like Mixi already support real-world checking in and tagging via NFC. With this system, users can research information on real-world items by tapping on the NFC sticker or tag. Items can also be shared with contacts by tapping.
Twitter's introduction of location-based services in Japan might mean the company is likewise looking into doing the same for other mobile markets. Japan is considered a mature and advanced mobile market, and if Twitter does well in using location-based information here, then the system can be replicated elsewhere.